Phil Kline’s


About Phil Kline

Phil Kline has created an astonishing range of music and sound art—from works using hundreds of tape players to ritual installations, theater and dance pieces; from politically-charged songs to an evening-length mass; from music for choruses and marching bands to chamber ensembles and orchestras, electric guitars and viol consorts.


Raised in Akron, Ohio, he came to New York to study English Literature and music at Columbia. After graduation, he dove into the downtown New York arts scene, founding the rock band The Del-Byzanteens with Jim Jarmusch and James Nares; collaborating with Nan Goldin on the soundtrack to The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (on view at MoMA through February 2017); and playing guitar in the notorious Glenn Branca Ensemble.


His early compositions grew out of solo performance art experiments and often used large numbers of boombox tape players as a medium, most notably in the outdoor Christmas piece Unsilent Night, which debuted in the streets of Greenwich Village in 1992 and is now performed annually in dozens of cities around the world. Among the tape-based installations of this period are the semi-opera Into the Fire, with texts by Luc Sante and presented at The Kitchen in 2000; and the ritual last words before vanishing from the face of the earth, given its only hearing on top of Terrible Mountain near Ludlow, Vermont in 2001.


Instrumental compositions include Exquisite Corpses, commissioned by the Bang on a Can All-Stars in 1996; Zippo Songs, a song cycle for Theo Bleckmann, based on poems Vietnam vets inscribed on their Zippo lighters; Rumsfeld Songs, based on the Pentagon briefings of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; The Blue Room and Other Stories, written for string quartet Ethel; and the immersive music theater piece Locus Solus, based on the novel by Raymond Roussel, which was staged throughout the galleries and staircases of the Ryerss Mansion Museum in Philadelphia in 2006.


Commissions include the sound installation World on a String, created for the opening of the 2007 season at the Krannert Center in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois; SPACE, featuring string quartet Ethel and electronics, commissioned by Alice Tully Hall for its gala reopening in 2009; the Mass John the Revelator, written for vocal group Lionheart; The Long Winter, written for pianist Sarah Cahill; and scores for three evening-length dance pieces by Wally Cardona: Everywhere, Site and Really Real.  


2011 saw the premieres of A Dream and its Opposite, written for the La Jolla Symphony Orchestra; Canzona a due Cuori, commissioned by the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble; and a book of organ pieces commissioned for the gigantic Kotschmar Organ of Portland, Maine. A second song cycle for Theo Bleckmann, Out Cold, opened at the BAM Next Wave Festival in October 2012.


Recent works include Blood (2014) for strings and electronics; In a Handbasket (2015) for large orchestra; The Old Man of the Mountain (2016) for amplified string quartet and the voice of William S Burroughs; and Dawn Chorus, a chamber septet based on the song of the Western Meadowlark, written to commemorate the U.S. National Parks System centennial and premiered in Badlands National Park, South Dakota.


Kline is currently working in collaboration with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch on a music theater spectacle about Nikola Tesla. He lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with his wife and daughter.