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Philip Blackburn was born in Cambridge, England, and studied music there as a Choral Scholar at Clare College (BA, MA). He earned his Ph.D. in Composition from the University of Iowa where he studied with Kenneth Gaburo and began work on publishing the Harry Partch archives. Blackburn's book, Enclosure Three: Harry Partch, won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. He has worked at the American Composers Forum since 1991, running the innova Recordings label (which has been called “the nation’s premiere label for American new music”) while developing re-granting programs (notably the Jerome commissioning program, McKnight Fellowships) and opportunities for composers (such as the Sonic Circuits International Electronic Music Festival, Continental Harmony, and Bamboofest).
He is also a public artist specializing in sound — a composer/environmental sound-artist — and has served as teaching artist for school residencies connected with the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival, creating multi-media performances using home-made instruments. He composed the soundtrack for the Wild Music: Sounds and Songs of Life exhibition initiated by the Science Museum of Minnesota now traveling the nation. His Car Horn Fanfare for 8 ArtCars opened the Northern Spark Festival, and his Duluth Harbor Serenade was heard by thousands of people during Duluth Superior Pride. Blackburn’s works have been heard in ships’ harbors, state fairs, forests, and coming out of storm sewers, as well as in galleries and on concert stages. He has incorporated brainwave sensors and dowsing rods in performance as well as balloon flutes, car horns, smart phones, and wind-powered harps. He created a multi-media hyperopera about Cragmor Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Colorado Springs. That work, The Sun Palace is now a 60-minute indie film.
Signal to Noise magazine called Blackburn “a startlingly original voice, one that encompasses all periods of music history in a uniquely engaging vision.” Blackburn has published articles on topics such as Vietnamese, Garifuna, and Cuban music, the social dynamics of ensemble performance, and the use of sound in public art. He received a 2003 Bush Artist Fellowship, a 2011 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, and has built an art-house in Belize. His house renovation project in St. Paul was featured in the New York Times. He is now working on a large scale kinetic sculpture, the Pendulum Beacon, for St. Paul’s Beacon Bluff NextGen industrial park on the site of the original 3M headquarters.