Phillip Bimstein: Larkin Gifford's Harmonica
New York Times:
"An engaging introduction to... his quirky electro-acoustic compositions...
The irresistible charm of Mr. Bimstein's music has less to do with technology
than with his uncanny knack for finding the music of everday life."
the full New York Times review.
"an American original... [Bimstein] has evolved into a singular musical
CD is] stunning and heartwarming... quirky, moving, and delightful musical journeys."
the full Stereophile review.
"Listening to this album of Bimstein's compositions makes me feel like I've
taken a slow drive through a western landscape, meeting along the way everyone
from Georgia O'Keeffe to Tony Hillerman, Mark Twain, Neal Cassady, Raymond Scott,
Kurt Weill, Aphex Twin, and some of those grizzled geezers that populate the
novels of Annie Proulx."
Phillip Bimstein's latest CD once again finds this talented composer
creating engrossing musical portraits of distinctive people and places.
Noted composer John Adams wrote the CD's Introduction,
their composer, the pieces on this album communicate a generous and good-natured
spirit that is tempered with wry wit and a special sense of the western
landscape and culture that he so loves."
On Bimstein's first Starkland CD,
the beloved piece Garland Hirschi's Cows generated hundreds of calls
to radio stations, cultivated an ardent following, and was eventually
anointed "a cult classic" on NPR's All Things Considered.
How could the composer create a worthy followup to that charming work
about a Utah farmer discussing his history, his cows, and why they moo?
Bimstein responded with Larkin Gifford's Harmonica, a poignant
portrait of the elderly Larkin Gifford, who offers vibrant stories, including
his lifelong love of playing the harmonica. Bimstein describes stopping
by Larkin and Ruth Gifford's house one day:
"Ruth invited me in, made me a sandwich,
and gave me some fruit and a glass of milk. Then Larkin played harmonica
while I accompanied him on the guitar. He was a delightful man with
great stories to tell, and he loved playing the harmonica. A
few years later I came back and recorded Larkin playing old tunes he
had collected from his youth. I listened to his stories about
growing up in Springdale in the early 1900s. He remembered his
father taking him down to the river and giving him a drink of water
from his hand, and buying him his first harmonica when he was eight
years old. I deconstructed his harmonica tunes into bits
and pieces, and then reassembled them into new music which retains
some of the character and tone of Larkin's playing. I also weaved
Larkin's spoken memories through the patterns in the music."
Listen to Phillip Bimstein discuss his piece Larkin Gifford's Harmonica on
Weekend Edition at NPR.
features the delightful, funny, and genuine Robert Logan, better known
as "Bushy Wushy the Beer Man." Bushy Wushy sold beer in
Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, for more than forty
years. Bimstein began The Bushy Wushy Rag by visiting Busch
Stadium, recording the crack of the bat from behind home plate, the
ball slamming into the catcher's mitt, and other baseball game sounds.
He then combined these sampled sounds with stories told by the charming
Bushy Wushy, all tied together with a score for wind quintet. Listeners
will also hear echoes of music associated with baseball and St. Louis,
such as The Maple Leaf Rag written about 100 years before
by Scott Joplin in St. Louis.
Learn more about The Bushy Wushy Rag at PBS's Continental Harmony site.
Casino serves as a sonic portrait
of both an individual and a unique American city. In this informative
work, we learn about the dice-caller Tom Martinet, who offers insights
into the superstitions and psychologies of gambling, and we learn
about the fascination that many have with Las Vegas. Originally trained
to be a priest, the philohophizing Martinet has this to say about
gambling: " In the long run, everybody
loses." In addition to the interview with Martinet, Bimstein recorded
the percussive sounds of slot machines, roulette wheels, dice, poker
chips, coins, cards, and the big wheel. He also simultaneously composed
a wind quintet score which grows out of and interacts with Martinet's
voice and the gambling sounds.
Regarding these three musical depictions, Adams
notes that Bimstein "has
an enviable knack for choosing spoken narratives that reminds me of the
filmmaker Errol Morris."
Read an interview with Phillip Bimstein at the American Music Center's newmusicbox.
The CD also offers two instrumental works. Half
Moon at Checkerboard Mesa emerges from Bimstein's fascination
with the sounds of the natural environment surrounding his home at
Zion National Park in Utah. He recorded the singing of canyon tree
frogs, the howls of coyotes, chirping crickets, rocks, thunder, and
the sounds of water from the Virgin River. He then shaped and orchestrated
these natural sounds into composed music and wrote an interacting score
for live oboe. The piece has been performed at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall,
and was featured on NPR's All Things Considered.
The other instrumental work is Rockville Utah 1926, which is
based on melodic material from the work Garland Hirschi's
Cows. The title is the
place and date of Garland's birth. The piece is meant to evoke the pastoral
and active life of remote rural Utahns at that time, before they had
electricity, when they had to grow their own food to survive.
Listen to Phillip Bimstein discuss his music on NPR's All Things Considered.
Bimstein resides in Springdale, Utah, where he served two terms as mayor,
prompting Outside magazine to call him "America's only all-natural
politician composer." His "alternative classical" music
combines acoustic instruments with found sounds and voices to paint portraits
and tell stories. Bimstein's music has been performed at Lincoln Center,
Bang on a Can, and London's Royal Opera House. In addition to his studies
of theory, composition, and orchestration at the Chicago Conservatory
and UCLA, Bimstein led the new wave band Phil 'n' the Blanks, whose albums
and videos were college radio and MTV hits.
Visit Phillip Bimstein's website.