Archive for Phil Kline

Phil Kline’s Zippo Songs

Posted in Music with tags , on May 21, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

A terrific review of Phil Kline’s Zippo Songs on the

Best of 2009

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Lots to chose from and most of it from living composers who create outside the tedious and ugly world of the conservatory. Proving that the future of music is really in the hands of those who care about originality and beauty rather than residing in the clammy claws of the sterile academics.

CD of the Year

Phil Kline: John the Revelator
Lionheart; Ethel
(Cantaloupe Music)
I can’t say enough about John the Revelator. Phil Kline has created a work whose stark beauty connects on so many levels. You’d have to be made of stone not to feel this one.

John Adams: Dr. Atomic Symphony
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
David Robertson, conductor
A strange and beautiful world of orchestral color and rampaging rhythms.

Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Big-boned, heroic Brahms that rivals my favorite recordings by Otto Klemperer and Istvan Kertesz. Speaking of Kertesz, I wish the corporate troglodytes at Universal would get a clue and reissue his Decca recordings.

Michael Daugherty: Fire and Blood
Ida Kavafian, violin; The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Jarvi, conductor
Daugherty’s Fire and Blood concerto has balls and Kavafian delivers a brilliantly muscular performance. Daugherty’s music is disliked by the pasty-faced academics–“it’s glib and filled with cheap effects”–they shriek. All the more reason to love his music. Check out the recording of his Metropolis Symphony too.

Gabriel Jackson: Not No Faceless Angel
Stephen Layton, director
Jackson grabbed some deserved acclaim with “The Christ Child Sat On Mary’s Lap,” the carol commissioned for the 2009 Festival of Lessons and Carols at Kings College, Cambridge. This sublime CD is an ideal introduction to his music.

Rued Langgaard: Messis
Flemming Dreisig, organ
An organ work that clocks in at over 2 hours? Yes please! Langgaard’s music is hyper-Romantic and Dreisig is a superb organist. It’s been quite a Langgaard year with Dacapo releasing a boxed set of the quirky Dane’s complete symphonies.

James Macmillan: St. John Passion
Christopher Maltman, baritone
London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor
(LSO Live)
A deeply moving and piercingly dramatic telling of the Passion story. A gorgeous performance led by the greatest living conductor.

Mahler Symphony No. 4
Miah Persson, soprano
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Fischer’s excellent Mahler cycle hits a high point.

Felix Mendelssohn: Complete Organ Sonatas
William Whitehead, organ
Church organists love these little gems but they are not especially well-know outside the organ loft. Whitehead plays a marvelous old instrument on this terrific recording.

Olivier Messiaen: Saint Francois d’Assise
Rodney Gilfry, baritione; Camilla Tilling, soprano; Hubert Delamboye, tenor
Netherlands Opera Chorus, Hague Philharmonic Orchestra
Ingo Metzmacher, conductor
(Opus Arte)
Pierre Audi’s hypnotic staging is remarkable and Messiaen’s score will probably never be better-served. I think they will be serving frozen margaritas in hell before this opera is ever staged in New York, so grab this DVD and prepare to be overwhelmed.

A video treat

I’m deeply in love with soprano Miah Persson, the soloist on Fischer’s Mahler 4th. Here she is singing “Come scoglio” from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.

Happy 2010! I hope…

Unsilent Night

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 21, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

The maestro in Washington Square Park - photo by Tom Jarmusch

Looking out at the piles of gray- and black-streaked snow outside my window reminds me of how glad I am that we had Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night on December 12th when the New York weather was cold but clear! Judging from the reaction of people who participated, though, we could have held Unsilent Night on the evening Earth freezes over for eternity and people would still have been happy. Unsilent Night does that to you.

This was my first year participating in Phil Kline’s “free outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, recorded on cassettes, CDs and mp3s, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes carried through city streets every December.” That’s the official description of the event, but it’s much more than that. In New York it’s an 18 year-old-tradition that draws music-loving people, kids and their parents, aging hipsters, young hipster wannabes and, in some ways best of all, the curious to Washington Square Park for the opportunity to lug a boombox picked from Kline’s cache of vintage Sony and Panasonic players.

Kline's period instruments

People also dusted off their own boomboxes and queued up under the arch for one of Kline’s cassettes or CDs containing a section of his sublime score. Kline prefers Unsilent Night to be played on cassettes (the medium for which he wrote it) for the unique sound they make, so I guess playing Unsilent Night on an old Sony boombox with a cassette is a kind of historically informed performance practice; if more early music aficionados had a sense of humor, they would appreciate this.

Long-time participants know about Unsilent Night and they were out in force in New York (and Baltimore, Boulder, Los Angeles, and lots of other places—Unsilent Night is performed in 25 cities on three continents), but it’s the curious stragglers who happened upon the crowd gathered under the arch that grabbed my attention. A young couple asked me what was going on and when I told them, they raised eyebrows and gave me a somewhat skeptical, “Interesting.” They joined us for the entire walk to Tompkins Square Park and a number of times they gave me a thumbs-up sign or just smiled. They didn’t have boomboxes, but were just along for the joyous musical ride.

As we headed east on 8th Avenue, we passed so many people who had that “What the hell is going on here?” look on their faces and you could count the number of beats it took for that look to turn to a smile once they were enveloped in the music—about three beats. Same thing happened when I took the walk with Phil in Philadelphia a few days later. Big smiles.

The enduring image that I will carry with me is that of a young woman who was off by herself in Tompkins Square Park toward the end of the piece. She was short and small and had one of Phil’s boomboxes resting on her head. Her eyes were closed and she had a beatific smile as she gently swayed with the music. That’s Unsilent Night—sound beatified.

Here’s a taste of Unsilent Night New York 2009

For more information about Unsilent Night, visit


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

An Advent Procession based on the Great “O” Antiphons
The Choir of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle
(Loft Recordings)

Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer
(Channel Classics)

Alphons Diepenbrock: Orchestral Works and Songs
Residentie Orchestra The Hague
Hans Vonk

Phil Kline: Unsilent Night
(Cantaloupe Music)

Henry Purcell: Odes for St. Cecilia’s Day
Taverner Consort
Andrew Parrott
(Virgin Veritas)

Remembering the great Elisabeth Söderström