1. Weft Sutra 7:35
2. Ordo 19:48
3. The Song of the Earth 12:38
4. The Sound of a Going in the Tops of the Mulberry Trees 11:23
5. Lilacs and Lightning 4:34
6. Albi 21:29
1. A Cambridge Musick 13:41
2. Over Again 9:47
3. More Fools Than Wise 6:22
4. Sonata Homophobia 10:55
5. Unearthing 3:55
6. Stuck 2:32
7. Air: Air, Canary, New Ground 13:56
Philip Blackburn, instruments and electronics
Nirmala Rajasekar, veena
Ryland Angel, voice
Patti Cudd, vibraphone
NO EXIT New Music Ensemble
Emanuele Arciuli, piano
The Mänk Quartet
Quey Percussion Duo
Carrie Henneman Shaw, soprano
Zachery Meier, flute and neural activity
Chris Mann, voice
University of Minnesota Solo Improvisers
UCCS Creative Music Ensemble
“Holding an acoustic mirror up to nature.” Environmental sound artist, Philip Blackburn’s compositions are nothing short of ambitious attempts to rewild the concert hall. With the release of ORDO, selected from more than four decades of his experimental work, we can now experience his richly musical soundscape tapestries in one sitting.
At the heart of ORDO (Latin, order) lies a profound exploration of the nature of sound, from the harmonious ebb and flow of wind-powered consonance and dissonance to the intricate dialogues between acoustic and digitized worlds. Exploring counterpoint as conversation theory, and the expressive potential of acoustic phenomena, the thirteen tracks are thought-provokingly smooth as they are crunchy—constantly evolving, daringly melodic, and textured with layers that shift like the weather.
Sonic allusions transport listeners from the imagined soundscapes of the Underground Railway, international shipping ports, Victorian silk mills, and car problems, to the beaches of the Normandy Landing. ORDO is not only a musical journey but also a deep exploration of human experience, touching on themes of internalized hate speech, the entropy of death, and the interplay of technology within our lives. The title track, Ordo, sets a version of Aaron Freeman’s celebrated 2005 NPR commentary, Eulogy from a Physicist which describes life vanishing into cosmic heat while maintaining the same total energy.
ORDO defies easy categorization as it embraces influences from a diverse array of musical traditions — Partch, Perotin, Palm Court, Purcell, Raga, Gregorian chant, and more. Blackburn’s compositions navigate these references, creating far-reaching elaborations and improvisations that challenge conventional notions of form and emotion.
Through powerful collaborations with artists such as Nirmala Rajasekar, Ryland Angel, Patti Cudd, and Emanuele Arciuli, Blackburn strikes a delicate balance between specific direction and artistic freedom. The astonishing virtuosic feats of groups such as Galan Trio and No Exit New Music Ensemble are also on display.
Gerald Busby’s Kantian observation that “Your musical creations deal with the noumena of consciousness more than the phenomena,” resonates deeply with the essence of ORDO. The album induces a state of mind that transcends the ordinary. Others have noted, “It stimulates Theta waves in the brain and we lose all sense of time.” With the intricate and technically demanding compositions that challenge performers, ORDO reflects a journey through emotions—from limpid melancholy to high anxiety. The album effortlessly bridges the gap between Indian and Western classical music, classical physics and fluid dynamics, creating a resonant world that breathes, churns, and dissipates.
ORDO is a sonic testament to Blackburn’s ability to derive musical language from the very patterns found in nature in all its ambient complexity. The album celebrates the collision of musical worlds, harmonizing just and equal tempered tuning systems, and forming new simultaneities that combine into exotic timbres. ORDO is a mesmerizing mosaic of sound, an alchemical ritual that transforms chaos into order, and a clarion call for listening more carefully – and with greater imagination – to the living world around us.
Philip Blackburn (b. 1962, Cambridge, England) has published more than 700 albums (including six of his own) over thirty years as an arts administrator and label guy (innova and Neuma). He won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his Enclosures: Harry Partch. He was awarded fellowships from Civitella Ranieri and the Bush Foundation. He makes his home in Minnesota or Belize, depending on the weather.