Vipassana: The Music of Joseph C. Phillips, Jr.

Vipassana: The Music of Joseph C. Phillips, Jr.

The music, silence and clarity of Joseph C. Phillips, Jr.
Joseph C. Phillips
Ben Kono
Dan Willis
Ed Xiques
David Smith
Deborah Weisz
Tom Beckham
Michael Pinto
Amanda Monaco
Sebastian Noelle
Deanna Witkowski
Brenda Earle
Peter Wise
Luke Notary
Charenee Wade
Amy Cervini
Sofia Koutsovitis
Julie Hardy
Monika Heidemann
Ana Milosavljevic
Skye Steele
Orlando Wells
Joshua Davidowitz
Jody Redhage
Lauren Riley-Rigby
Thomson Kneeland
Joseph C. Phillips Jr.
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
Meditative (neo New Age)
music for dance

Brooklyn, NY

Release Date: 
Apr 14, 2009
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

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. Wanting to reflect the essence of that quietude in music, composer Joseph C. Phillips Jr. created Vipassana. 

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. If you like to bliss out to the gentle modal patterns and rich harmonic progressions of Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" or John Adams's "Harmonium" this album is for you. Each part of Vipassana is a chapter in the larger journey to clarity: 

1. Of Climbing Heaven and Gazing on the Earth: inspired by a photo from Yann Arthus-Bertrand's traveling outdoor photography exhibition, Earth from Above. 

2. Stillness Flows Ever Changing: a river of sound creating waves of melodies that dance and weave around each other. 

3. Into all the Valleys Evening Journeys: influenced by the "hero's journey" illuminated by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 

4. The Nothingness that is the Source of Everything: partly inspired by one of Bjoerk's Selmasongs as well as a song from Gustav Mahler's Rueckertlieder and featuring Denise Levertov's poem Variation and Reflection on a Theme by Rilke. 

As with much of Mr. Phillips' music, Vipassana humbly seeks to create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens. 

Vipassana is performed by Mr. Phillips' ensemble Numinous, a collection of some of New York City's finest new music, classical, and jazz musicians.


Rating: 94/100

Composer Joseph C. Phillips, admirably aided by the ensemble Numinous, delivers a stunning 18 minute performance here, blending elements of Steve Reich and Pat Metheny and other sources of inspiration into one of the freshest recordings of the year. Imagine Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, but with an expanded harmonic sensibility, a jazzier pulse, and occasional hints of sweeping Maria Schneider-esque melodies. The individual ingredients are familiar, but I guarantee that you haven't heard them put together in this way before. For want of a better term, let me call it über-minimalism. Phillips' writing is brilliant, and the ensemble performs it with clarity and passion. Count me as a believer.

- Ted Gioia,

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, Arts Journal

It starts out sounding like something inspired by “Tubular Bells”, but surprise, it’s an interpretation of Buddhist texts set to music. A fusion of contemporary classical, jazz, new age and other left leaning musics, 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 “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

In the Pali language of early Buddhist texts "vipassana" means "to see things as they really are." The word is also translated as "insight" or "clear-seeing." It's a spiritual process based on instinct and intuition rather than reasoning and intellect. In short, Vipassana is the road to the most profound level of understanding. Vipassana is a recording that captures the fluid and organic fuison of elements from contemporary classical, jazz, and popular music. 

...Indeed, Phillips continues on the paradoxical track by which he defines himself without any clear definition. ONE THING IS FOR SURE.... HE CONNECTS WITH THE AUDIENCE!!

- Jeff Vallet, The Chronicle

On Innova's Vipassana, composer Joseph C. Phillips Jr. leads the ensemble Numinous through his four-part composition of that name. Vipassana is a word most frequently used in the context of Buddhist mediation, signifying seeing through direct perception rather than through second-hand observation. Phillips' hour-long composition Vipassana is not meant as music to accompany the activity of meditation so much as it is itself a meditation on, and voyage through, various visual stimuli, though the last piece departs from that model in that it envelops a setting of a poem by Denise Levertov. Musically, this quartet of stylish and provocative pieces stands somewhere between the style of Steve Reich and contemporary jazz, though parts of it are texturally much busier than Reich and the use of improvisation is fairly restrained, limited to solo space to spotlight some key players in the ensemble. The ensemble Numinous contains some names familiar from the downtown scene in New York, such as cellist Jody Redhage, violinist Ana Milosavijevic, trumpeter Dave Smith, and trombonist Deborah Weisz; Smith gets a plum solo spot in the third piece, "Into all the Valleys Evening Journeys." Julie Hardy sings the poem in the last piece, "The Nothingness That Is the Source of Everything," very pleasantly, and while this is not ambient music, the sense of music-making throughout is relaxed, dedicated, and for the most part, calm.

For some listeners, Vipassana — at least in its early stages — will seem too derivative of Reich and they may not be able to move forward with it. However, Phillips is taking the long-term view of such input, asking "what might be the next step" rather than merely imitating the model; he folds it into 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, and partly developed from a love of particular instrumental combinations. There are certain kinds of harmonic shifts that Phillips prefers, and after listening for awhile you might come to expect them. Nevertheless, 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.

- Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide

Nice, smooth, heady, orchestrated modern progressive music. Numinous is the name Joseph C. Phillips Jr. uses for the 25 piece New York ensemble that he collected together to perform Vipassana (a word that, in the Pali language, means "to see things as they really are"). The album is divided into four lengthy segments: "Of Climbing Heaven and Gazing on the Earth," "Stillness Flows Ever Changing," "Into All the Valleys Evening Journeys," and "The Nothingness That is the Source of Everything." Phillips writes nice, flowing pieces that are simultaneously soothing and thought-provoking...and he utilizes mostly traditional instruments which gives the music a nice, warm, organic sound. Some segments of these pieces recall early Phillip Glass...but only slightly. Mr. Phillips apparently wrote these pieces to capture some of the sounds and feelings inspired by nature and the world around us. These inspired compositions reflect this man's apparent fascination with things in the world that are real. Beautifully executed music that should appeal to fans of classical, modern classical, world, and jazz music. (Rating: 5+)

- Babysue

Composer-conductor Joseph C. Phillips, Jr. has a way of making his ensemble, Numinous, sound even larger than its 25 pieces.

...Phillips arrives at an imaginative gestalt of his own...

- David Adler, All About Jazz

A hypnotic rhythmic undertow guides his music and is informed by influences from the world of literature, philosophy and religion.

- John Murph, The Root

Vipassana has more depth than most music classified as New Age, and provides fascinating listening of great beauty along with considerable originality. It creates a sense of wonder missing from most new music

- John Sunier, Audiophile Audition

Phillips shares a taste for the nuances, the sensitivity to the more subtle nuances, the search for a sound liquidity.

- Filippo Focosi, Kathodik

...a twentieth century composer, who has a spiritual understanding of himself and the past, created Vipassana. His ability to express a culturally diverse composition style that will fit into any true music lover's collection.

- Jamsource