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Muna Torso

by Phill Niblock

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Muna Torso 21:08


A note from Lawrence English

It’s a delight to share this film and sound work from Phill Niblock. I’m sure many of you know Phill’s work already. He has made a place for himself as one of the most vital advocates for maximal minimalism - exploring the complexity of these ideas though both the auditory and visual senses. This work, Muna Torso is one such investigation, albeit one with a twist. The work, which is an extended and almost abstracted study of renowned choreographer and dancer Muna Tseng, is occupied by the intersection of sound and skin. Moreover it dwells upon the way that the body operates in sound fields, something at the very heart of how dance, and music, communicate together.

I visited Phill at his loft last September. We spoke about the piece. He was quick to explain about their collaborative interests and approaches, and that in 1992, the pair undertook a series of collaborative performances that solidified their interests and methodologies. They shared a passion for ideas of ‘detail and simplicity’, two disarmingly understated words that seem to deny the sensory depth that is captured in this audio visual work. The film collected here is in fact one section of a longer work they completed together. A parallel film, which speaks to Muna’s childhood in Hong Kong also was made, along with slides used in projection during the performances. Each of these sections comprised the arc of their piece, but it is Muna Torso that simmers down their approach to it’s most refined state.

On a sonic level, what makes the composition for Muna Torso so important in Phill’s canon is that it is the only piece that uses synthetic sounds as the basis for the composition. Phill told me “There was a time in the late 1980s where I started to think that perhaps I’d work more with synthesisers going forward, but frankly they all sounded terrible. That said I used the Proteus from time to time then, it used sampled sound and as basic as they were, they had a quality to them that made them suited to what I was interested to make.”

Listening to Muna Torso now, there’s a certain atmosphere and breath that no doubt reflects the source material from which the piece was cultivated. It holds a special place, not just because it is unlike other works, but also that it helped resolve Phill’s practice at that time, driving it toward the instrumental core that has defined so much of what he does.

It’s easy to become deeply absorbed in this piece, I hope such a situation befalls you.


released March 24, 2023

This edition includes a download of the film Muna Torso by Phill Niblock, which is included as a bonus item here. Please download at your leisure.


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