Separate Self Pre-Release Party


June 27, 2016
7:30 pm


Church of the Redeemer Auditorium

$10 for individuals. $15 for households. Admission includes an advance copy of the CD and refreshments.

I’m so pleased to invite you to the Separate Self Pre-release Party with IonSound Project. Separate Self officially drops on July 8, but we have advanced copies to offer. IonSound will present music from the new album and be joined by guests Emily Pinkerton, Eva and Michael Rainforth, and Neil Newton. Please join us in celebrating the release of Separate Self, hear some wonderful performances, and enjoy some delicious refreshments!

Here’s a preview of the album featuring three excerpts from the title track. I hope you like it!

Funding for Separate Self was provided by the Investing in Professional Artists Program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. Additional funding was provided by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, and by generous individuals who contributed to the Fractured Atlas Fiscally Sponsored Project “Recording Project: Philip Thompson’s Visual Arts-Inspired Chamber Music.”

Final Battle for Love in Louisville, June 3-5

June 3, 2016
8:00 pm
June 4, 2016
8:00 pm
June 5, 2016
2:00 pm

St. John Nulu Theater


So this is a big one. Final Battle for Love, one of the world’s finest baroque-metal professional wrestling operas, will receive its first full production June 3-5 by Thompson Street Opera (no relation) in Louisville. This will be a piano only version, but all the magnificent solo and chorus parts will be there in a fully staged production. As Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for professional wrestling opera.”

In a program titled “Not for the Faint of Heart,” the first half of the evening will consist of two mono-operas, A Cup of Tea by Yvonne Freckmann and The Tell Tale Heart  by Adam Levowitz. After the intermission it’s all #professionalwrestlingopera.

If you want learn more, check out my post about the history of Final Battle.

Cityscapes: A Look Into Virgil Cantini’s Public Work

April 14, 2016
12:00 pm

Salk Hall Auditorium, University of Pittsburgh

UPDATE: Team Cantini at Salk Hall

Will, Isabelle, and me after Isabelle's outstanding talk.

Will, Isabelle, and me in front of Aerial Scape after Isabelle’s outstanding talk.

Science and Mankind Horiz

Cantini’s Science and Mankind-photo by Will Zavala

In 2015, the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Dental Medicine inaugurated a new addition to Salk Hall and installed in its lobby a large enamel mural by Pittsburgh artist Virgil Cantini (1919-2009). Aerial Scape, created in 1970, was originally located in the Oliver Building until its acquisition by the University in 2009. Cantini was faculty in
the Fine Arts department and founded the Studio Arts department at Pitt. Many of his other work around campus — such as Man on the façade of Parran
Hall, Enlightment and Joy in Posvar Hall, or Science and Mankind in the
Chevron Science Building — seek to represent humanity’s continuous quest to
advance intellectual growth and knowledge.

Isabelle Chartier, curator of the University Art Gallery, will present an overview of Cantini’s pieces around various buildings on campus and examine how they might connect with people working in various disciplines. The lecture will include a special screening of Will Zavala’s Virgil Cantini: The Artist in Public, with music composed by Philip Thompson. This short film offers exclusive footage inside the artist¹s studio, as well as the dismantling of Aerial Scape from downtown Pittsburgh.

This screening of Virgil Cantini the Artist in Public will mark the first time the film has been shown with the new studio recording of Thompson’s score which will be included on Separate Self, an album of his chamber music performed by IonSound Project. Separate Self is set to be released on July 8, 2016 on the Ravello label.

Andrew Kohn and Pitt’s Orchestra Perform Finney’s Prayer

March 2, 2016
8:00 pm

Bellefield Hall AuditoriumFree

Bassist Andrew Kohn will givAndy_Kohne a reprise performance of my double bass concerto Finney’s Prayer  with the University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday, March 2nd at Pitt’s Bellefield Hall Auditorium. Andy premiered the piece back in (gasp!) 1998 when I composed it as my MA thesis composition. In addition, Andy has written a companion concerto for trombone and chamber orchestra titled Finney’s Birthplace. Kevin McManus will perform the trombone solo.

I’d like to tell you that our pieces are the featured works of the evening, but I’m not going to kid you. The remarkable Geri Allen is going to perform Mary Lou William’s Zodiac Suite, and the whole evening will be kicked off with Berlioz’ Carnival Overture. 

More About Finney’s Prayer

Charles Finney occupies a fascinating place in 19th century American history as a leading revivalist, abolitionist, and the first president of Oberlin College. The concept for Finney’s Prayer comes from a a passage in his memoirs in which he describes the spiritual crisis which led to his conversion.

“I went to my dinner and found no appetite to eat. I went to the office and found that squire W___ had gone to dinner. I took down my bass-viol, and as I was accustomed to do, began to play and sing some pieces of sacred music. But as soon as I began to sing those sacred words, I began to weep. It seemed as if my heart was all liquid; and my feelings were in such a state that I could not hear my own voice in singing without causing my sensibility to overflow…”

Finney goes on to describe a mystical vision of Christ which filled him with such awe that he,

“cried out, ‘I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.’”

Finney’s Prayer (1998) portrays the contour of this experience from crisis to epiphany, peace to awe, and finally, relief. In developing this composition as a narrative structure, I have sought consciously to reference portrayals of transcendence as they are found in works by such composers as Messiaen, Tavener, and Pärt, with hopefully a strong dose of Flannery O’Connor’s insight that grace is, among other things, unsettling.

Gioco Project Presents Nocturnes

November 21, 2014
8:00 pm

Union Project

gioco project

So happy to let you know that Gioco Project will be performing my Nocturnes at the Union Project on November 21. Gioco Project is a new effort by former Black Orchid String Trio members Rachel Smith and Jennifer Sternick. They’ve enlisted the help of a number of Pittsburgh’s excellent chamber musicians to present music by Ryan McMasters, Daniel Perttu, Evan Ziporyn, and myself.

I’m really thrilled that Nocturnes will get another hearing so soon, and like the Rotunda of the University Art Gallery where the work premiered, Union Project is a big space that will allow the resonances and silences to merge into each other gently.

Please come out and hear these terrific musicians play Nocturnes, and bring your friends!

A Celebration of Galileo’s 450th Birthday, Premiere of Nocturnes

February 15, 2014
3:00 pm

 Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Free


University of Pittsburgh Departments of Music and Studio Arts and the University Art Gallery have organized a commemoration of Galileo’s 450th birthday. The interdisciplinary event will take place from 3-5 p.m. in the Rotunda of the University Art Gallery.

The centerpiece of the event will be an interdisciplinary installation I’ve had the privilege of collaborating on with Pitt Studio Arts faculty members Michael Morrill and Aaron Henderson. The installation is built around Michael’s Linea Terminale paintings, themselves inspired by Galileo’s moon drawings. Aaron’s video and my brand new composition for string trio were created as a response both to Linea Terminale and the broader idea of celebrating Galileo’s life and scientific contributions.

Linea Terminale consists of twelve paintings in four groups of three. I structured my music along the same lines — four sets of three miniatures, averaging around a minute each. About the time I was finishing up the twelfth section, it occurred to me that the common character of all the movements was that of a nocturne so that’s what I’ve titled it: Nocturnes. I realized that the whole time I was composing the piece, the image of Galileo peering through his telescope at the moon was in the back of my mind. It makes sense because night time is still the best time to observe the moon.


Special guest Paolo Palmieri, from Pitt’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science, will give a brief talk on Galileo and his contributions prior to the performance.

This interdisciplinary celebration of Galileo’s 450th birthday is cosponsored by the Departments of Studio Arts and Music, the University Art Gallery, and the Departments of History and Philosophy of Science, Physics, and Astronomy and Philosophy. The event is free and open to the public.

Animé BOP! Screens Virgil Cantini Film, Performs my Score

April 14, 2013
7:00 pm

Bellefield Hall Auditorium, Free


L-R: Linda Fisher, bassoon; Robin Driscoll, oboe; Rob Frankenberry, piano

I’m delighted that Pittsburgh trio Animé BOP! will screen Will Zavala’s film Virgil Cantini: The Artist in Public while performing my score for said film live. Will and I have been working closely with Animé BOP! bassoonist Linda Fisher to make some minor revisions to the film and the music so that it’s more suitable to a concert setting. It will run abut 8 1/2 minutes total and include many familiar scenes around the city, clips from Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, and some wonderful glimpses into Cantini’s studio. In short, it’s a film that is truly steeped in Pittsburgh’s cultural life.

Will and I first collaborated in 2009 on the film about Cantini, the founder of Pitt’s Studio Arts program whose sculptures occupy prominent places around the Pittsburgh cityscape. The impetus for the film was the ongoing Artists on Film project cosponsored by Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and we’re delighted that it continues to hold appeal and find new audiences.

Animé BOP! is calling the concert The Pittsburgh Composers and along with Will’s film and my score, it will include Nancy Galbraith’s Incantation & Allegro, James Ogburn’s Complements and Collisions, the premieres of eX (e to the x) by Mark S. Fromm  and Semplicemente by Noah Rectenwald, and Robert Frankenberry’s arrangement of Daron Aric Hagen’s Tryst.

I hope you can make it!

The droids you’re looking for…

March 9, 2013
7:00 pm

Detail from one of Garth Zeglin’s robotic fabric sculptures for Separate Self.

My newest project, a collaboration with IonSound Project and roboticist/sculptor Garth Zeglin, will premiere on Saturday, March 9, at Bellefield Hall in Oakland. This is Part II of IonSound’s CreatION Sound series with the first installment featuring music by Patrick Burke and Jeremy Boyle’s robotic drum. The project Garth and I created is called Separate Self and features three of Garth’s robotic sculptures basically dancing to the music I wrote. I think you’re going to like it a lot.

My first and lasting impression of Garth Zeglin’s robotic fabric sculptures is that they are elegant and graceful creatures who move beautifully and expressively. I created the music for Separate Self with a clear idea of how the robots would move (thanks to computer simulations Garth shared with me early in the design stage), but also with the thought that many different kinds of entities—including humans—could move to this music and enjoy doing so.

IonSound commissioned Separate Self with the support of a Spark Award from the Sprout Fund. This concert is also the culmination of a series of educational workshops with the Falk and Waldorf schools, and will involve student performers and their created instruments and compositions.

I’m always grateful for the opportunity to work with the marvelous musicians of IonSound Project and for the chance to collaborate with Garth. And I’m particularly grateful to the Sprout Fund for supporting the entire CreatION Sound project.

Tickets in advance: General admission is $12; students and seniors, are $8. Call 412-422-8042 for advance tickets. At the door: general admission is $15; students and seniors are $10. Children 12 and under are free.

Scenes from Final Battle for Love at Virginia Arts Festival

June 4, 2012
7:30 pm

Chandler Hall, Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center
Old Dominion University

On June 4th in Norfolk, the John Duffy Composers Institute Singers and members of the Virginia Symphony will perform scenes from the  world’s finest baroque-metal professional wrestling opera, The Final Battle for Love. I’ve written a brand new scene titled “The Battle Before the Final Battle” and I’ve revised the scene “Starla.” I’m very excited about the new scene because it means that we get to know all the main characters very early on in the opera.

By way of preview, this will be a concert presentation rather than staged with piano. Also on the program is Jake Runestad’s The Toll. Both pieces will be played twice with discussion in between each performance featuring comments by the iconic John Duffy, Robert Cross (director of the Virginia Arts Festival), and music director Alan Johnson.

Premiere of “Dust: a Lenten Journey”

March 13, 2011
4:00 pm

Kemper Center Chapel
6501 Third Ave.
Kenosha, WI


My newest composition, Dust: a Lenten Journey, is a song cycle on eight poems by my dear friend Rebecca Engstrom. The work was commissioned by Light of Christ Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin and is scored for soprano, string quartet, and live electronics. The performance will feature the talented soprano Kathryn Peperkorn with Rebecca leading  the quartet with her violin, and me triggering audio playback from my laptop. The gorgeous poster for Dust was designed by comic book illustrator Gary Shipman. You can learn more about the project here.

I hope you can join us!