Phill Niblock

Baobab has been performed in Montréal…

Originally written for orchestra, Phill Niblock’s Disseminate (1998) and Baobab (2011) were arranged by the composer specifically for the Bozzini Quartet, or rather, for ‘multiples’ of the Quartet: twenty different tracks are mixed in each piece — twenty different instruments, the equivalent of five string quartets. The music is essentially a work on the shifting nature of overtone patterns that arise from acoustic instruments. As composer Robert Ashley convincingly argued, these pieces inscribe themselves in the “hardcore drone” scene of American electronic music:Niblock [brings] the orchestra into the electronic world.” For Disseminate and Baobab, Niblock scored a distinct set of microtonal intervals, and the players are indicated how sharp or flat they should play. But a certain sense of range is given around each chromatic pitch, so that every bow stroke partly determines the microtones. All 20 “instruments” are then recorded to produce the piece. When mixed, the simultaneous microtonal intervals produced by the Bozzini Quartet(s) come together to create massive clouds of extremely rich, beating, and shifting sound. Such a complex signal needs time to unfold, and for the overtone patterns to emerge instrumentalists almost have to display the endurance of electronic instruments, producing long, seamless, sustained tones. As a listener, it is practically impossible to grasp when or how changes in the sound texture actually occur. Our sense of time is confused, and we are drawn deeper into a mode of listening that pays attention to the textural qualities of the “hardcore drone” sound itself.

Emanuelle Majeau-Bettez


  • Phill Niblock
  • Year of composition: 2011, 17
  • Duration: 23:00
  • Instrumentation: string quartet and fixed medium
On disc
4 June 2017
8:30 pm
Série QB
In person
Montréal (Québec)
4 Dece 2018
8:00 pm
HmmhNiblockRogerTétreaultWhim Ensemble
In person Free admission
Montréal (Québec)
28 Marc 2020
7:00 pm
In person
Berlin (Germany)