|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.|
The Numinosum Blog
Been listening to a fascinating series on NPR's All Things Considered about how spirituality is processed in the brain. Reminds me of the quest of the Impressionist painters in the 19th century to show the 'true' colors produced by light: but how can you truly see what is really there if your 'brain' is processing the experience of what you see? what is green if not our brain's reaction to a certain stimuli that we translate as green?
In the series so far there are just as interesting koans involving the brain and spirituality: how do we process numinous experiences? Is it all in our heads? can we ever really know? While I don't agree with him on everything, I'm certainly in the Christopher Hitchens camp about recognizing the numinous doesn't have to belong to the world of the religious, when he says, "It's innate in us to be overawed by certain moments, say, at evening on a mountaintop or sunset on the boundaries of the ocean. Or, in my case, looking through the Hubble telescope at those extraordinary pictures. We have a sense of awe and wonder at something beyond ourselves, and so we should, because our own lives are very transient and insignificant. That's the numinous, and there's enough wonder in the natural world without any resort to the supernatural being required."
All things which are great fun to contemplate...
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Next Saturday is the Vipassana CD release concert, May 16 at 8 pm at the Puffin Room (435 Broome Street in SoHo), $15 at the door! It has been a two year journey from our last performance of Vipassana to the studio to this concert and I hope you can come celebrate with us. There will be a reception after the performance and if you haven't already, you can purchase the new CD for a special price! The recording has been getting some good reviews and airplay with more features and reviews already planned for the coming months. I hope you can join us next Saturday for this rare opportunity to hear Vipassana live and for what plans to be a very special performance.
Numinous CD release concert
Saturday May 16th 8pm
The Puffin Room
435 Broome Street, New York City
Ben Kono, Tom Christensen, Ed Xiques (woodwinds), Jason Colby(trumpet/flügelhorn), Deborah Weisz, (trombone), Tom Beckham(vibraphone), Megan Levin, (harp), Amanda Monaco, Sebastian Noelle(electric guitars), Kris Davis, Brenda Earle, (pianos), Jared Soldiviero, Sam Levin, (percussion), Charenee Wade, Amy Cervini, Sara Serpa, Julie Hardy,Wendy Gilles (voices), Ana Milosavljevic, Skye Steele (violins), Carmel Raz, Nora Krohn (violas), Will Martina, Lauren Riley-Rigby (violoncellos),Thomson Kneeland, (bass), Joseph C. Phillips Jr., (conductor, composer)
In the Pali language of early Buddhist texts, vipassana means “to see things as they really are.” Today, vipassana is a type of meditation that seeks spiritual clarity and insight through silence. A four-part composition by Joseph C. Phillips Jr. featuring 25 instrumentalists and singers, Vipassana is 60 minutes of “beautiful noise”—a fluid and organic fusion of elements from contemporary classical, jazz, and popular music. As with much of my music, Vipassana humbly seeks to create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.
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While I don't completely buy the sentiment of the title, which comes from a recent article by Tom Hodgkinson in The New Statesman, nor agree totally with the arguments in the article, I find it thought-provoking. Particularly given the inspiration for my composition The Long Now is the idea of a future 10,000 years from now. I especially enjoyed the quotes in the article from Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy (1946). I'll actually have to go to the library and check it out "old school" style.
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Interesting posting from Kyle Gann about mission statements as a composer and whether it is really necessary to articulate it in a concrete fashion.
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Well it has been a week since the premiere of The Long Now with the St. Olaf Band. It was a wonderful time and this week I get to complete my 2009 Band diptych with a residency and premiere at the University of Maryland-College Park. I was commissioned by the Gamma Xi chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi to write a composition for the 2008-2009 University of Maryland Symphonic Band, Dr. L. Richmond Sparks, director; written in honor of the 100th Anniversary of Bands at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The composition I wrote is called The Gates of the Wonder-World Open and will be premiered at the Annual "Pops" Concert on Saturday May 2nd at the Dekelboum Concert Hall, with me conducting. Here's what I wrote about the piece for the concert program:
The title comes from Carl Sagan’s rewording of a sentence from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick: “By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open…” This sentence describes how, for Ishmael, the sea voyage is a gateway to the future, to new and unknown adventures. I’ve felt my time in college was also a gateway to that undiscovered country—the future; an unimaginable life that was waiting for me after my years on campus. The Gates of the Wonder-World Open looks back to those beginnings; a celebration of the youthful excitement and joyful anticipation embarking on the continuous discovery to one’s self.
I actually read Moby Dick for the first time last year and while I found it hard to get through (the pages and pages of cetological detail was especially difficult reading) excepting some wonderful and exciting passages, the above sentence spoke to me immediately. And when a few months later I was reading Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot and he uses the Moby Dick sentence as title to one of his chapters, I made note to "appropriate" it as a title of a composition some day. And that day came sooner than I expected. And while The Gates of the Wonder-World Open has nothing directly to do with either book, I felt the phrase conveyed what I wanted to achieve with the piece.
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Sadly my time here with the St. Olaf College Band is almost up. Tonight, April 19th at 7:30pm Central Time is the Band concert premiering my commissioned composition, The Long Now. You can check it out live at the St. Olaf site. If you can't catch the concert live, you can listen at the archive section of the St. Olaf website-look for the April 19th Band concert. Below are my program notes for The Long Now. I've really enjoyed my week here in Northfield with the Band and have been impressed by their musicianship and generosity of spirit and will remember my time with them fondly.
I first heard of the Long Now Foundation when years ago a friend of mine worked a summer "internship" on one of their projects: The Rosetta Project, an attempt to create a publicly and easily accessible on-line library of all documented human language. The Long Now Foundation, founded in 01996, is a California based organization whose goal is "to provide counterpoint to today's ‘faster/cheaper’ mind set and promote ‘slower/better’ thinking" and "to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years." The term ‘long now’, which connotes a stretching of what people consider as now, was created by composer/producer Brian Eno, a founding board member of the Foundation.
One of the things that fascinated me about the Long Now Foundation and, subsequently became it’s most mainstream and well-known concept, is The Clock of the Long Now. Sometimes called the 10,000 Year Clock or the World’s Slowest Computer, the final monument sized, all-mechanical Clock will be built to last about the same length of time (10,000 years) as human technological progression to date. The concept of the Clock reminded me of the awe the 11th century near mythological 30 foot tall astronomical water clock of Sun Sung must have instilled in the ancient Chinese who were lucky enough to see it. To me, just the idea of some distant post-human, 10,000 years from now, stumbling upon a still functioning 21st century Sun Sung clock, a mysterious artifact from our own times, is quite an intriguing, inspiring, and beautiful thought. My composition The Long Now is inspired by the wonder and hopefulness of that thought.
The Miles Johnson Endowment commissioned The Long Now for the 2008-2009 St. Olaf Band, Dr. Timothy Mahr, conductor. This work was also funded in part by the Composer Assistance Program of the American Music Center.
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Yesterday (April 16) was the last rehearsal before the St. Olaf Band concert on Sunday. The rehearsal on Tuesday was in the chapel, which does not provide the greatest in acoustics so it was difficult keeping everyone together on my rhythmically tricky music. Also I was a bit distracted mentally, so I didn't feel the rehearsal (at least for me) went well. Wednesday, April 15, I didn't have anything until a Jazz Band rehearsal later that night, so I used the day for some much needed rest. I walked around downtown Northfield and ended up at Carleton College, which is 12 blocks east of St. Olaf College. It was a much needed break and the Jazz Band rehearsal (which will be performing my composition, Race-an arrangement of a piece I did for Pulse later in May) went really well. While the some details are still missing, the shape of the piece has come together wonderfully.
So yesterday the day started off great as the four officers of the Band picked me up and we had breakfast at a local place called The Tavern. It was fun talking with them and hearing about their lives and what will be next for them after leaving St. Olaf. It was such a beautiful and warm gesture and I enjoyed the time with them. Later in the day I gave a composition seminar to Justin Merritt's class and then had the band rehearsal, which basically was a run-through. This rehearsal was back in the band room and felt much more together and I'm really looking forward to conducting them on Sunday.
That night, just after conducting my piece at the band rehearsal, I went with two friends to downtown Minneapolis to hear the Out to Lunch Quintet (Dave Milne, Kelly Rossum, Dave Hagedorn, Tom Lewis, and Phil Hey) at the MacPhail Center for Music. They performed Eric Dolphy's entire Out to Lunch album along with two other compositions and it was great. The hall was wonderful and the music even better (I really need to check out Dolphy's music more!).
Today, April 17 there are no rehearsals scheduled, but I plan on heading up to Minneapolis and St. Paul to see a friend and visit the innova offices.
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Vipassana will be released worldwide on innova recordings on Tuesday April 14. You can hear some excerpts atwww.numinousmusic.com and read more about it at www.innova.mu. I'm very excited about sharing Vipassana to the wider world and hope you have an opportunity to check it out at your favorite on-line or brick and morter musical outlet.
The new CD can be found worldwide at iTunes, eMusic.com, Amazon.com,Barnes and Noble.com, innova.mu, numinousmusic.com and most retail/online establishments.
In the Pali language of early Buddhist texts, vipassana means “to see things as they really are.” Today, vipassana is a type of meditation that seeks spiritual clarity and insight through silence. A four-part composition featuring 25 instrumentalists and singers, Vipassana is 60 minutes of “beautiful noise”—a fluid and organic fusion of elements from contemporary classical, jazz, and popular music.
Early reviews of Vipassana:
“Phillips' writing is brilliant, and the ensemble performs it with clarity and passion. Count me as a believer.”--Ted Gioia (jazz.com)
"And I just got a copy of a (still to be released) CD earlier this week that knocks my socks off . . Vipassana: Numinous Plays the Music of Joseph C. Phillips, Jr. Imagine Steve Reich collaborating with Maria Schneider . . . If you get a chance to hear it, check it out." - Ted Gioia
“…this is certainly head music for the cerebral, but it’s a dandy listening date for people that really like their alternative stuff from left field. More of a spiritual descendant of [Steve Reich’s] “Music for 18 Musicians” than anything else, it has the appeal of that dense work but takes you to a different place. Wild and worth it.”--Midwest Record Review
“Musically, this quartet of stylish and provocative pieces stands somewhere between the style of Steve Reich and contemporary jazz… [a] blend that succeeds in being the sum of its parts and to illustrate his program, which is an unusual one: part symphonic, part spiritual exegesis… Vipassana is never less than likeable, is sincere in intent, and is greatly enjoyable to listen to; Joseph C. Phillips Jr. is a young composer to watch.”--All Music Guide
"...while there have been a couple of attempts at [blending] minimalism and jazz, they haven't really worked as convincingly as this album."—John Schaefer, WNYC's New Sounds
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This is the first of my postings about things to do with Numinous, my music, or things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens. Hope you check back often.
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To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.