s k e i n
SKEIN is the first orchestral composition of Simon’s. Just intonation, spatialistion, and duration are used to reflect on time from different perspectives. The entire piece is comprised of mostly long notes played using a scale derived from simple seven limit just intonation pitches – creating a lush expanse of rich harmony and timbre. The entire work never becomes loud, with a maximum dynamic of mezzopiano. Some of the musicians from the orchestra are placed to the sides and behind the audience, creating very subtle colours to enhance and give a sense of spatialization to the sound coming from the main ensemble on stage. Although the work is monumental in some ways, it is so in the sense that an enormous cloud hovering above the earth is monumental but with a knowledge that it is made of air and mist.
SKEIN was entered in the Rychenberg Competition and is one of the 10 nominated works (from 191 registered composers) to be played by the renowned Musikkollegium Winterthur (Switzerland) and recorded and filmed for the final judging and audience vote. The prize winner’s concert will take place in June 2020.
(SKEIN (definition) - 1 A length of thread or yarn, loosely coiled and knotted.
1.1 An element that forms part of a complex or complicated whole. ‘he weaves together the skeins of philosophy, ecology, folklore, and history’ 2 A flock of wildfowl in flight, typically in a V-shaped formation.)
o u t e r n a t i o n a l
Simon was invited by Dramaturg Eliza Erkelenz to create a collaborative composition for the Outnational project for the PODIUM Festival in Esslingen. For the work, Simon worked with four Persian musicians – Elshan Ghasimi (Tar and voice), Mona Matbau Riahi (clarinet and voice), Golnar Shahyar (voice) and Jawad Salkhordeh (Tonbak, Percussion and voice) with Simon playing diffusing sound recordings through a four channel system. The work is a rich collage of traditional Persian songs and instrumental improvisation, recited text, birdcalls and field recordings. Each musician was placed in a corner of an intimate performance space with the audience seated on stools between the musicians.
f l a w
Commissioned by Ensemble Offspring and the Australian Art Orchestra and premiered at the Sydney Festival in January 2016, FLAW is a 35 minute composition for organ, large ensemble and multi-channel surround sound. The work, presented alongside two other new commissions from Austin Buckett and Alvin Lucier, utilises a unique ensemble of strings, trumpet, percussion, reel-to-reel tape machine, turntable, electronics, soprano and pipe organ to create an immersive sound world that uses development and spatialisation to explore the perception of time.
"This is sensuous, immersive ambient music and a stunning example of how a good composer can distil the bombast and drama of the pipe organ into a thing of simple grace and beauty."
The Sydney Morning Herald
"The Phillips, FLAW, was my favourite of the night"
pe r t o d o a r
Perto do Ar (Close to Air) is a 50 minute immersive composition for brass sextet that uses spatialisation and a very resonant acoustic to create an amazing work rich in complex overtones and sound colour. At particular points during the performance, members of the ensemble move around the audience making full use of the directional possibilities for this expansive work.
(Perto do Ar was premiered on the 1st of November, 2014 in Lisbon, Portugal. This important date is the anniversary of the Great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 as well as being All Saints Day. It was premiered in the magnificent Panteão Nacional, where many of Portugal's most important figures are buried.
This work was produced by Teatro Maria Matos, Lisbon with the generous assistance of the Australia Council of the Arts and was first performed with members of the Portuguese Chamber Orchestra and German Trumpeter, Nils Ostendorf).
"The pace of the music means you don't anticipate its full emotional heft until you're lost in the thick of it. The result is mesmerising, lending the impression that even the passage of time has surrendered to the wiles of the players."
b l a g e
Exploration of time, perception and place is the recurring theme of the work of Simon James Phillips. The Blage Series is a project of Simon James Phillips where he curates and performs one off, site-specific performances. He forms a new ensemble for each performance, and creates a concept that is specific to the performance space. A mix between concert and installation.
For example, the 3rd in the series was an extended installation and performance piece curated by Phillips for the opening of the Tanz im August Festival in Berlin. It was a one-off, five hour uninterrupted improvisation with an ensemble of six of Berlin’s most visible experimental artists – Tony Buck (drums and percussion), Werner Dafeldecker (double bass), BJ Nilsen (electronics), Liz Allbee (trumpet), Arthur Rother (guitar) and Simon James Phillips (piano). The ensemble was placed in the centre of a large dance studio and the audience, free to come and go, were admitted only once the work had begun – the five hour duration unknown to the audience. The ensemble created expansive sonic atmospheres that incorporated outside concrete noise, extended techniques and a sense of gradual overlapping thematic development. Communicative and responsive yet with a continual sense of consensual disconnection between the artists.
Blage 3 (a reduced version) has recently been released as a double CD set on Mikroton Recordings and has received high critical acclaim.
“Phillips' five hour long improv marathon compressed to two of the best hours of ensemble-driven work by this wickedly talented composer”.
Tome to the Weather Machine
“Der ‚Sound‘ ist hier ein Ergebnis präzise kalkulierter musikalischer Sensibilität und Traditionen. Der ‚lange Atem‘ sorgt dafür, dass die Genre-Übergänge sich nicht collagenhaft, sondern erdzeitaltermäßig ergeben”.
SPEX - Dietrich Diederichsen