Unsilent Composer Phil Kline Gives a Shout to What’s New in Classical Music, Affirms There is Life After Beethoven

Photograph of Phil Kline

“Who says a composer has to be dead to sell records?” is how a recent review of his album Around the World in a Daze in New York Magazine began.

A fixture of New York’s downtown scene, composer and lyricist Phil Kline stands out for his range and unpredictability. He makes music in many genres and contexts, from experimental electronics and sound installations to songs, choral, theater, chamber and orchestral works. Early in his career he co-founded the rock band the Del-Byzanteens with Jim Jarmusch and James Nares, collaborated with Nan Goldin on the soundtrack to The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and played guitar in the notorious Glenn Branca Ensemble. Some of his early work evolved from performance art and used large numbers of boom boxes, such as the Christmas cult classic Unsilent Night. Other diverse works include John the Revelator, a setting of the Latin mass written for early music specialists Lionheart, and dreamcitynine, which mixed 60 percussionists with hundreds of iphones around the plaza of Lincoln Center. Kline is currently working with Jarmusch on an opera, Tesla in New York. You are just as likely to encounter 15,000 chattering, African gray parrots as you are a “mash up of street noise, music clips, music boxes, bug zappers, and many other bits of sonic detritus” in his compositions.

On Sunday, May 3, 2 PM in The Stables at The Mount, Phil Kline surveys the classical music scene from a composer’s viewpoint, looking at and listening to a wide variety of music written in the last few years here and abroad. He’ll take stock of the huge influx of very active young composers, and how all of this is affecting orchestras and music presenters. Kline’s exposure on CNN, NPR and countless other media outlets as well as his three decades of writing for post-punk bands, choral groups, and, yes, iPods, have helped him manage a remarkable feat: escaping the avant-garde ghetto. Kline may be experimental, but he hasn’t scared off less adventurous listeners. His talk and recorded selections are geared to centrist classical music appreciators as well as the hip hop crowd.

“… Balances hipster zen with the seriousness of Bach and Wagner.” The New Yorker

“Unsilent Composer” is part of a series of intimate and stimulating conversations about music and ideas, an intrinsic part of the Close Encounters With Music season. “Conversations With…” has presented such notable speakers as writer, editor and Bob Dylan biographer Seth Rogovoy; composer, National Endowment grantee and Guggenheim fellow Judith Zaimont; baritone and actor Benjamin Luxon; Emmy Award-winning animator, illustrator, cartoonist and children’s book author R.O. Blechman; art restorer David Bull; Academy Award nominee Daniel Anker; scholar, performer and multimedia artist Robert Winter; former Yankee, author and sportscaster Jim Bouton; Metropolican Opera costume designer Charles Caine, and award-winning poet Charles Coe.

Tickets for this event are $15 and are available on the Close Encounters website – www.cewm.org or at 800-843-0778. Light refreshments, following the presentation, are included.

Close Encounters With Music stands at the intersection of music, art and the vast richness of Western culture. Entertaining, erudite and lively commentary from founder and Artistic director Yehuda Hanani puts composers and their times in perspective to enrich the concert experience. Since the inception of its Commissioning Project in 2001, CEWM has worked with the most distinguished composers of our time: Paul Schoenfield, Robert Beaser, Osvaldo Golijov, Lera Auerbach, Jorge Martin, John Musto, among others to create important new works that have already taken their place in the chamber music canon and on CD. A core of brilliant performers includes pianists Adam Neiman, Roman Rabinovich, Walter Ponce and Jeffrey Swann; violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi, Yehonatan Berick, Vadim Gluzman, Erin Keefe and Itamar Zorman; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein and Charles Neidich; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Jennifer Rivera, Jennifer Zetlan, Kelley O’Connor, Lucille Beer and William Sharp; the Amernet, Muir, Manhattan, Avalon, Hugo Wolf quartets, and Cuarteto Latinamericano; and guitarist Eliot Fisk. Choreographer David Parsons and actors Richard Chamberlain, Jane Alexander and Sigourney Weaver have also appeared as guests, weaving narration and dance into the fabric of the programs.

The Mount, a National Historic Landmark, is a cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. The estate, designed and built by Edith Wharton in 1902, embodies the principles outlined in her influential book, The Decoration of Houses (1897). In addition to the mansion, the property includes three acres of formal gardens, including a French flower garden and an Italian white garden. Extensive woodscapes surround the formal gardens. Each year, The Mount hosts over 30,000 visitors. Daily tours of the property are offered May-October with special events throughout the year. Annual summer programming includes Wharton on Wednesdays, Music After Hours, and the popular Monday Lecture Series. Exhibitions explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.

“CONVERSATIONS WITH…” —  A series of talks with notable composers, writers, performers, and cultural avatars

“Unsilent Composer” with composer Phil Kline at The Stables at The Mount, Sunday, May 3, 2PM.  $15 per person includes light refreshments.