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Phil Kline: Around the World in a Daze

"One of this era’s most fearlessly relevant composers… New music fans will salivate over this…"
- Lucid Culture

The first section of Kline’s new Daze composition is the mysterious, haunting “The Housatonic at Henry Street,” where the initial ambient sounds were recorded by Kline hanging microphones outside his windows overlooking a street corner in New York City’s lower East Side. Back in the studio, Kline added more material. He then replayed all this through multiple boomboxes spatially deployed on that same intersection and recorded this new generation of sounds. Finally, he mixed all this “to create an imaginary landscape where past and present hang out together in asynchronous multitonal harmony.”

Kline describes the lovely “Svarga Yatra” as the “beginning of a long journey.” Performed by the string quartet Ethel, this effortlessly flowing piece begins to pull the listener into the full work’s overall arc. Kline explains that “the members of the quartet were recorded as an ensemble and overdubbed individually, with a surrounding halo of boombox tape players echoing some of their parts.”

The weirdly pensive “The Maryland Sample” contains the first vocals in the overall composition. performed by Kamala Sankaram and Kline. The composer comments that this “madrigal about love and science, bitterness and bees” is a “setting of a poem by my best teacher, David Shapiro.”

Following this is the longest section of the entire work. Interviewer John Schaefer comments that the “stunning” 18-minute “Pennies from Heaven” is “in many ways is the centerpiece of Around the World in a Daze.” Schaefer adds, “Here the psychoacoustic possibilities of surround sound are most tellingly explored… in the wider perspective of surround sound, the ear is able to distinguish the individual threads in what turns out to be a complex but elegant aural tapestry.” He comments that the densely layered, but differentiated lines “reminded me of Conlon Nancarrow and Trimpin.”

Based on a simple bell sound representing the penny. the piece builds to an astonishing, otherworldly climax, containing over 80 tracks comprising over 300 voices. Kline notes “I actually tried to calculate how many pennies we were hearing at once – it’s hundreds of thousands at one point.” “Pennies” probably explores surround more extensively than any other section of Daze. Kline says, “You’ve got to hear that one in surround.”

The massive “Pennies” is followed by two shorter sections. “On the Waterfront” offers a subtly manipulated realtime recording of couple sensually enjoying themselves during a thunderstorm. Kline explains, “I folded time over itself into an altered perspective…it is reality and a little bit of origami.”

The next section, “Luv U 2 Death” alters reality in a different way, via a telescoped, hyper-sampling of Wagner's famed "Liebestod" from Tristan Und Isolde, the familiar music swooping and swirling around the listener in an unsettling whirlwind.

The seventh movement of Daze is the mesmerizing “The Wailing Wall,” where layer upon layer of multi-tracked vocal loops all lead to a richly mournful peak, which then slowly subsides into a distant echo in the rear speakers.

Video: Phil Kline discusses "The Wailing Wall"

“The Grand Etude For The Elevation” features violinist Todd Reynolds (originally with Ethel) in a work that reinforces the arch-like structure of Daze, recalling the earlier “Svarga Yatra” performed by Ethel. Commenting on the music’s ethereal, floating climax, Kline notes in the DVD’s Interview, “There’s definitely a sense of building and soaring. It’s as if you’ve gotten to the mountaintops, you’re in the clouds, you’re alone, now it’s quiet, and you just see into the vast distance.”

As the listener moves towards the end of Daze, Kline titles the penultimate section “Prelude.” He begins with ancient recording a Bach prelude from The Well-Tempered Clavier, which he processes and cross-fades through a broad array of plug-ins, mixing in a background ambient recording from the Zurich train station.

The final section of Daze is the densely layered “The Housatonic at Dzanga.” The core of the piece is a field recording (captured by Louis Sarno) at a famous watering hole at Dzanga, where hundreds of elephants come to drink. At dawn, a steadily increasing carpet of chattering from thousands of African gray parrots surrounds and immerses the listener. Kline was fascinated by sonic richness of this recording, which he estimates documents around 15,000 parrots. By varying the playback speed of this sampled material and compiling a thick layer of these, Kline creates a constantly evolving surround environment which beautifully echoes the opening section “The Housatonic at Henry Street.”

Given the opportunity to write music for an entire DVD, Kline early on developed an overall idea for the full recording. He mentions his concept “started with the first piece that I wrote for Tom and Starkland” for the Immersion DVD. “The Housatonic at Henry Street” refers to New England’s Housatonic river, which led Kline to think of the Ganges, transcendental writers, and the spatially experimental composer Charles Ives (who wrote The Housatonic at Stockbridge). He thought “Let’s do a similar thing in other locations – let’s take the river of life that begins at Henry Street and take it around the world.”

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The Housatonic at Henry Street
For Ives the river of life, running right by my window.
Electronica and tape orchestra. Field recording: Henry Street at Rutgers, evening in July.

Svarga Yatra
An uphill climb. It might mean Stairway to Heaven in Sanskrit.
Performed by Ethel (Todd Reynolds and Mary Rowell, violins, Ralph Farris, viola, Dorothy Lawson, cello) with tape choir.

The Maryland Sample
A madrigal about love and science, bitterness and bees.
Performed by Kamala Sankaram (vocals) and Phil Kline (vocals, strings and percussion). Field recording: bug zappers on Nicola Teslas porch

Pennies from Heaven
The trickle down theory. Everything is falling. Every time it rains it rains.
Tape orchestra

On the Waterfront
This is not a recording, but something happening right now in Istanbul.
Luv U 2 Death
Death hastened by technology. And our love become a funeral pyre.
Wagner Liebestod
The Wailing Wall
The pull of the moon. A blind man tries to describe it.
Vocals by Phil Kline
Grand Etude for the Elevation
The importance of height: I can see my house from here.
Violinistics by Todd Reynolds
Departing, the end begins.
Bach Prelude in B flat minor. Field recording: Tuesday morning, Zurich station.

The Housatonic at Dzanga
The mystery of red mercury, observed by a million gray parrots.
Electronica and tape choir. Field recording: the watering hole at Dzanga, Central African Republic (Louis Sarno)

DVD One Total Time: 65:17 | Introduction: John Schaefer


MEDITATION (run as fast as you can)
music video by Phil Kline

Interview with John Schaefer

Production Photos

Total Content: 110 min.
NTSC All Region

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