Music of Shadows

Music of Shadows

From the subterranean to the subconscious
Philip Blackburn
Philip Blackburn
Bob Paredes
Jane Rigler
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
music for dance
homemade instruments

St. Paul, MN

Release Date: 
Jun 24, 2014
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
Philip Blackburn: Music of ShadowsiTunes Artist's PageiTunes Album Page
Song TitleTimePrice
1.Dry Spell26:56
2.Still Points17:35
3.The Long Day Closes25:58
One Sheet: 

Philip Blackburn’s music has been called trippy, hallucinatory, intense, and riveting. Music of Shadows, his follow up to the 2012 Ghostly Psalms (innova 246), is all those things and more. Verging on transcendental, it contains three substantial works that are explorations of ways of listening as much as they are music in the usual sense. They offer sensually sonic worlds to inhabit and wallow in; ambient landscapes of the dreaming mind and what you might hear there.

Two of them began as underground soundscape installations, as part of Blackburn’s Sewer Pipe Organ — to be played back inside St. Paul’s storm drain system near the Mississippi. The sounds emerging from manholes across a wide area brought awareness to the acoustic spaces normally hidden from daily consciousness. One work, Dry Spell, started as a steampunk cityscape of lost children amidst invisible Victorian factories, and distant voices of heavenly choirs and innocents trapped in forgotten playgrounds. By contrast, Still Points, is a more geometrical fantasy on the overtones of the 60-cycle electrical hum; a dance of pure rhythmic proportions (made on a recreation of Cowell and Theremin’s Rhythmicon instrument).

The final work, The Long Day Closes, is a modest statement on mortality originally created as the soundtrack to part of Blackburn’s film, The Sun Palace — an experimental multimedia work paying tribute to the TB era and one particular Colorado sanatorium where some of his ancestors chased the cure. With a 40-voice chorus from UC-Colorado Springs, instrumental ensemble, tape, and a solo clarinet recording by Bob Paredes added long after his death, the music is a sustained, soaring homage to those who live at the cusp of life and death every day. The sensation is not too far from classics such as Bryars’ The Singing of the Titanic or Ives’ The Unanswered Question.

The world of vision has shades of light and dark, densities, movement, and space, with transparent layers and areas of focus. Blackburn’s sound world likewise maps the inner ear to the outer world in stunningly imaginative, time-defying ways; leaving impressions and shadows in its wake.

Philip Blackburn is an environmental sound artist, composer, author (on Harry Partch), film-maker, designer, and sculptor. His musical pantheon includes Kenneth Gaburo, Harry Partch, Henry Brant, Pauline Oliveros, Harley Gaber, and many others he has encountered through his work at the innova label.

Music of Shadows was supported by New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust.

About Ghostly Psalms:

“Acoustic alchemist Blackburn.” — Thurston, KFJC

“…comparable to a protracted hallucination, distinguishable traces emerging from the indefinite awareness of a somewhat mystical inscrutability."— Massimo Ricci

“[T]he listening experience is decidedly organic, if blissfully overwhelming.” — Doyle Armbrust, Time Out Chicago

 “[The] trippy, occasionally apocalyptic [Ghostly Psalms] knocks reality sideways.” — Philip Clark, Gramophone


"Blackburn presents a great deal of diversity in the compositions on Music of Shadows. The classical influence in the opening and closing pieces dramatically swell then fall to almost silence, heightened by choruses that are alternatively otherworldly or more grounded in familiar presentation. Blackburn's use of physical spaces and field recordings, ranging from animals to children, is additive. Effectively dividing these two pieces is an ambience that is unusually textured and rich with fluttering effects that merge and land, becoming louder and more insistent like a wind-up toy run amuck. Blackburn creates aural stories though the source of their content and meaning are left open to the imagination and as such Music of Shadows needs to be experienced to appreciate its unique beauty." [FULL ARTICLE]
Karl Ackermann

“Imagine a hot day, very hot; searing sustained waves of heat waft over you. There are the environmental sounds of a neighborhood- children at play, barking dog,and other ambient sounds, but this heat is overwhelming. Scrapes crunches of activity which could be interpreted as industrial effects and noise, but still these ringing heat drones resound in your ears. … [W]hat Blackburn is doing here is creating an environment unlike which any other you've heard. … [F]or those who appreciate ambient and experimental music with depth and dimension, it is an engaging and challenging listen.” [FULL ARTICLE]
Steve Mecca

“…bleak, tectonically and ineluctably shifting triptych…the high point of the composer’s career so far...Blackburn is sort of the shadow image of Brian Eno – his enveloping, often darkly majestic electroacoustic soundscapes tend to whoosh and resonate in the lows, sometimes with provocative samples…”