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IN 0246
BLACKBURN, P.: Ghostly Psalms / Duluth Harbor Serenade / Gospel Jihad (Blackburn)

BLACKBURN, P.: Ghostly Psalms / Duluth Harbor Serenade / Gospel Jihad (Blackburn)

The Classical Shop
release date: March 2012


Brown, Tim

Tim Brown


Dozens of Citizens of Duluth, Minnesota


Gary Verkade


Philip Blackburn


Theresa Wong


Carrie Henneman Shaw


Ellen Fullman


Clare College Choir, CambridgeWild Music ChorusSisters of Notre Dame Convent

King's College Choir, Cambridge

Wild Music ChorusClare College Choir, CambridgeSisters of Notre Dame Convent

Sisters of Notre Dame ConventWild Music ChorusClare College Choir, Cambridge

Wild Music ChorusSisters of Notre Dame ConventClare College Choir, Cambridge

Dozens of Citizens of Duluth, Minnesota

Record Label




Total Time - 63:44
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BLACKBURN, P.: Ghostly Psalms / Duluth Harbor Serenade / Gospel Jihad (Blackburn)

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Duluth Harbor Serenade

  Dozens of Citizens of Duluth, Minnesota Ensemble

Ghostly Psalms

2 No. 1. Jungle Litany - 13:21
 Ellen Fullman Soloist
3 No. 2. Draw On, Sweet Night - 2:11
 Carrie Henneman Shaw Soloist
4 No. 3. Roots of a Magic Square - 4:55
 Ellen Fullman Soloist
5 No. 4. The Shadow of my Shadow - 4:57
 Theresa Wong Soloist
6 No. 5. Non Judgment Day Is Nigh - 4:01
 Gary Verkade Soloist
7 No. 6. Now, More or Less Than Ever - 4:27
 Gary Verkade Soloist
8 No. 7. Beyond and Above - 3:51
 Theresa Wong Soloist
9 No. 8. Scratch I-Ching - 6:48
 Philip Blackburn Soloist
10 No. 9. Hymn to the Solar System 5:56
 Theresa Wong Soloist

Gospel Jihad

 Tim Brown Conductor
 Brown, Tim

Some say that an artist’s output is necessarily autobiographical. This set of three substantial works by UK-Minnesotan Philip Blackburn does nothing to disprove that; they have his visionary DNA all over them. They show his deep concern for space, people, and ideas discovering each other through sounding and listening in the moment of performance. And what performances they are! From a city-wide organized industrial soundscape to a virtuoso Cambridge choir, from a brainwave-generated laptop solo to Ellen Fullman’s 80-foot long string instrument with cloistered nuns blowing on organ pipes, these live events are as audacious as they are unrepeatable: Community-based experimental music at its most raw and refined, fun and profound.
Blackburn’s Duluth Harbor Serenade is a giant soundscape composition for the entire sounding bodies of the busy port city on Lake Superior: bridge alarms, steam train whistles, boat and fog horns, bells, brakes, and sirens, not to mention a flash-mob band of dozens of local performers parading around with loud outdoor instruments. The site ultra-specific performance was heard over several miles, coordinated to celebrate the unique sonic signature of the place and re-orchestrate its elements into new textures and combinations.
Ghostly Psalms, a 50-minute live performance for large chorus, organ, and unusual instruments, is equally grand in scope, psychologically if not geographically. It transports the listener through stages of a dream, one that Blackburn had in 1982 that sprang from his days as a Cambridge chorister. Ruined abbeys, watery/windy streams of consciousness, and planetary motions feature prominently. The music is immersive and dense, intimate and cosmic, from vulnerably exposed solos to intensely orgasmic clusters.  It’s as much a trip as a journey. Once again, it fills space, only this time in your head.
Psychodrama is central to Gospel Jihad too; an a cappella work for two rival choirs, one distant and tranquil, the other spitting fire and brimstone based on beloved (yet vicious) gospel hymn texts. (Blackburn’s ancestors include hymn writers George Stebbins and Isaac Watts, so he felt his contribution to the tradition should offer another perspective.) The unresolved musical standoff (with choreography viewable on the Youtube version), stunningly performed by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, brings the album to an end with an unearthly yelp.

      Best Opera & Classical Recordings 2012

“Sublime field recordings on the industrial shores of Lake Superior precede a phantasmagoric nightmare-scape to combine in a sonically diverse and transportive record.” 
Doyle Armbrust - Time Out (Chicago) - 20 December 2012

"Blackburn’s background as a Cambridge chorister, his associations with Henry Brant and Pauline Oliveros, and his work with the Harry Partch archive, might feel like a cultural divide too far. But his choral piece, Gospel Jihad, described as an “a cappella work for two rival choirs” and performed by the choir of Clare College, Cambridge, suggests that’s our problem, not his. The piece evokes an Ivesian spirit as one choir plays it cool against the fervent, unhinged fire and brimstone message of hymnal texts. That Blackburn contrives an ‘anti’ end, where it’s all left hanging, tells its own story. Ghostly Psalms itself was begun in 1982 and only completed in 2010 as Blackburn finally pulled all its disparate sources together. Scored for large choir, organ, and ‘unusual instruments’ – including wind-powered fishing-line harps and Ellen Fullman’s 80 foot long string instrument ¬– is perhaps self-consciously trippy, but Blackburn reins in his apocalyptic collisions of material with intimate vocal refrains and meticulously organized instrumental interludes." 
Philip Clark - The Wire

“[The] trippy, occasionally apocalyptic [Ghostly Psalms] knocks reality sideways. Intimate vocal soliloquies wrestle free from walls of sustained choral and string drones that morph and change with the (anti)logic of a dream’s unruly narrative.”
Philip Clark - Gramophone magazine

"Ghostly Psalms would be best delivered by a 50-foot-tall orchestrion, plopped in the center of the city, not by CD. The exemplary recording and production give that impression anyway. From the opening herald of a conch shell onward, listeners will find the walls swelling outward … [W]onderfully disorienting, trancelike without dissolving into meditation … [T]he listening experience is decidedly organic, if blissfully overwhelming … [C]aptures what Blackburn does most compellingly—draw focus to the terrestrial music that surrounds us." *****
Doyle Armbrust - Time Out (Chicago)

"[A] huge sound collage with all the ingredients of a weird dream: swirling stasis, ethereality, intimacy, intermittent intelligibility, non sequiturs, blurriness, repetition and so on. The eerie first Psalm, ’Jungle Litany’, is impressive enough on its own, judging by scale, noise or imagination … [A]n unsettling, original work that builds to an intense, almost demonic final few seconds." 
Byzantion - - May 2012

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