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Phillip Bimstein

Salt Lake City, UT      

“Phillip Bimstein uses the voices, natural sounds and culture of his adopted home in his compositions, and he practices politics with music in mind.“

                          – National Public Radio’s All Things Considered

Alternative classical composer Phillip Bimstein lives in Salt Lake City and Springdale, Utah, where he served two terms as mayor. A recipient of grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, American Composers Forum, Austria’s Prix Ars Electronica and an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Bimstein’s music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Bang on a Can Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Spoleto Festival and London’s Royal Opera House.

Ensembles who have performed Bimstein’s works include Relâche, Turtle Island String Quartet, Modern Mandolin Quartet, Present Music, Abramyan String Quartet, Sierra Winds, Equinox Chamber Players, the California E.A.R. Unit and Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues.

A Starkland CD of Bimstein’s music, Garland Hirschi’s Cows, garnered rave reviews internationally in such publications as Stereo Review, Wired, Fanfare, Stereophile, and this from Schwann Opus: “A highly entertaining, populist-oriented collection of serious modern music. Bimstein’s compositions are a virtual breath of fresh air.”

Starkland released a second CD of Bimstein’s compositions, Larkin Gifford’s Harmonica, in 2006. In the New York Times review of the CD, Steve Smith wrote, “the irresistible charm of Mr. Bimstein’s music has less to do with technology than with his uncanny knack for finding the music of everyday life.”

The composer John Adams wrote, “Like their composer, the pieces on this album communicate a generous and good-natured spirit that is tempered with wry wit and a special sense of the western landscape and culture that he so loves.” 

In 1997 Bimstein was awarded Meet The Composer’s largest grant, the three-year New Residencies, during which he composed music that celebrates and explores the intimate relationship between the landscapes of the desert southwest and the many cultures that have inhabited the area. One of the residency-created works, Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa, has been performed by well over 150 musicians all over the world.     

In 2006 Bimstein received his second Continental Harmony grant from the American Composers Forum to compose Zion Canyon Song Cycle based on the historical and contemporary stories of his community. Performed by his Americana folk chamber group Red Rock Rondo, it is the subject of an Emmy Award winning PBS -TV music special, which also won Bimstein an Emmy for music composition. 

Described by Outside Magazine as “America’s only all-natural politician-composer,” Bimstein served two terms as Springdale mayor. Due to his successful efforts to bring harmony to his previously divided community, Parade Magazine dubbed Bimstein, “The Man Who Brought Civility Back to Town.” In 2017 Bimstein gave a TEDx Talk about his work, “How to Practice Politics with Music in Mind.”

Bimstein has served as Chair of the Utah Humanities Council and Vice-President of the American Music Center. He is a frequent keynote speaker on creativity, community and collaboration. Information about Bimstein’s music and other projects can be found at his website: www.bimstein.com

The Bushy Wushy Rag

Phillip Bimstein’s celebration of baseball begins with legendary announcer Jack Buck excitedly calling an historic home run by Ozzie Smith. Bimstein recorded St. Louis Cardinal game sounds (cracks of the bat, balls slamming into mitts and grunts of the umpires), shaping them into a percussion track. The piece features the voice of a veteran beer vendor who calls himself “Bushy Wushy the Beer Man” and is one of baseball’s greatest fans. After interviewing Bushy Wushy, Bimstein composed a score for wind quintet, the Equinox Chamber Players.

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Lockdown, 1st movement: “White Bricks, Green Doors”

A techno tone poem on the voices and sounds of youth in detention.

Handcuffs, metal detectors and slamming cell doors are the musical instruments, and incarcerated teenagers are a streetwise chorus in Bimstein’s three-movement piece based on his work with youths confined in the Washington County Youth Crisis Center.

Bimstein recorded the youths expressing their fears, regrets about past crimes, and hopes for the future. With an ear to their pitches and rhythmic patterns he then wove their voices into a musical and narrative fabric.

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Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa

Sample of my previous work for oboe and sampled sounds. Recorded by Stephen Caplan (2000), it has also been performed by all of this project’s collaborating oboists. Sounds were recorded in Zion National Park, then digitally sampled, processed and orchestrated—similar to the technique planned for the proposed work (though the new work will be more experimental). 1:44> Oboe, tree frogs, crickets, river & rocks. 4:24> Coyotes, frogs & rocks. 4:44> Oboe, coyotes, frogs, river & rocks. ☛ 6:34-7:28> Oboe, crickets, coyotes, frogs, river & rocks

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NewMusicBox Articles

Articles November 1 2003 | By Phillip Bimstein
Composing a Community Dialogue

A quintet sits on a raised platform at the front of the hall. Although they perform together, they are not always in tune with each other. Sometimes they even sound...

Articles March 1 2003 | By Phillip Bimstein
The Trick of Retreating

“My freedom will be so much greater and more meaningful, the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraints,...