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P H I L L I P B I M S T E I N
“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, Aspen Music Festival, Spoleto Festival and London’s Royal Opera House.
Orechstras and ensembles who have performed Bimstein’s works include the Salt Lake Symphony, 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.”
Bimstein was born in Chicago and is a graduate of Chicago Conservatory of Music, where he majored in theory & composition. In the 1980s he led the new wave band Phil ‘n’ the Blanks, whose three albums and six videos were college radio and MTV hits. After further studies at UCLA in composition, orchestration and conducting, Bimstein took a hiking trip to southern Utah and never left.
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 more than 150 musicians all over the world.
Fascinated by language and the ability of music to tell a story, he frequently incorporates text in his work. Refuge, his string quartet based on the book by Utah naturalist Terry Tempest Williams, was described as “sublime – elegant perfection” by the Deseret News. In 2005 Bimstein composed Lockdown, a techno tone poem based on the sounds and voices of a youth crisis center in southern Utah. In addition to public concerts, the work is presented as dialogue-promoting outreach to youth detention facilities and prevention programs.
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. In 2011 Bimstein composed a new song cycle for Red Rock Rondo and the Salt Lake Sympony based on the best-selling book by Ted Gup, A Secret Gift.
In 2015 the Salt Lake Symphony premiered The Brahma Viharas, a symphony with English horn soloist (Charlotte Bell), which Bimstein composed based on four ancient Buddhist/Yogic contemplative practices that were developed over centuries to cultivate the qualities of lovingkindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity in the human heart. Bimstein has practiced yoga, the brahma viharas and mindfulness meditation for more than 40 years, and teaches the University of Utah Honors course, “Opening the Mind’s Eye: Contemplative Practice & Higher Education.”
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 approach to community: How to Practice Politics with Music in Mind.
Bimstein has served as Chair of the Utah Humanities Council (who awarded him the 2009 UHC Alumni Award and the Delmont R. Oswald Fellowship), Vice-President of the American Music Center in New York, and he is profiled in Who’s Who in America. Bimstein designs and teaches an interdisciplinary course in the University of Utah’s Honors College, “Composing a Community,” and 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: http://www.bimstein.com