A classically trained composer with an ongoing fascination for popular culture, Philip Thompson’s music explores a wide array of styles, from his baroque-metal professional wrestling opera The Final Battle for Love to the intimate and introspective Nocturnes for string trio.
July of 2016 saw the release of Separate Self (2016) on the Ravello label. This album of Thompson’s chamber music, performed by IonSound Project, has been hailed as “a tonic for troubled times” by Gapplegate Classical Modern Music Reviews and praised by Kathodik for “perfectly balancing lyricism and pulsation.” The title track was was selected for the I Care if You Listen 2016 Spring Mix Tape.
In June of 2016, Thompson’s one-act professional wrestling opera, The Final Battle for Love, was premiered by Thompson Street Opera Company in Louisville, Kentucky. Thompson Street (having now relocated to Chicago) will produce a four-performance run in January of 2017.
February 2014 saw the premiere of Nocturnes, a set of twelve miniatures for string trio composed as a response to Michael Morrill’s Linea Terminale paintings. Morrill’s paintings are inspired by Galileo’s moon drawings and Nocturnes and Linea Terminale were presented together as part of a celebration of Galileo’s 450th birthday in the Rotunda of the University of Pittsburgh’s University Art Gallery. Nocturnes was performed again by Gioco Project in November of 2014.
In 2012–13, Thompson collaborated extensively with IonSound Project and roboticist/sculptor Garth Zeglin on a new commission funded through a Spark Award from the Sprout Fund. The resulting work, Separate Self, featured Zeglin’s kinetic fabric sculptures “dancing” to Thompson’s music. The work was premiered in March of 2013 in Pittsburgh.
Kecow hit tamen, was premiered by IonSound Project in November of 2011 at University of Pittsburgh’s Bellefield Hall Auditorium. The work is a multi-media collaboration with artist Ryan Day and was one of the first works presented as part of IonSound’s “Commissions for the Future” initiative to support Pittsburgh-based composers.
Dust: A Lenten Journey, was commissioned by Light of Christ Church in Kenosha Wisconsin. A setting of eight poems by Rebecca Engstrom, Dust is scored for mezzo soprano, string quartet, and live electronics. Thompson led the premiere of Dust at the Kemper Center Chapel in Kenosha on March 13, 2011.
Other recent performances include violinist Roger Zahab and pianist Robert Frankenberry’s presentation of Emergence at Churchill College, Cambridge (August 2010), and the premiere of Percussion Concerto (Remixed) by IonSound Project (November 2009).
Thompson composed and produced the score for Will Zavala’s 2009 documentary Virgil Cantini: The Artist in Public, a film commissioned by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts with support from the Heinz Endowments. His composition Trouble, has received multiple performances by IonSound Project (who premiered the work in 2008 and performed it subsequently in 2009 with choreography by KnotDance), by Alia Musica Pittsburgh, and as part of a symposium at Trinity Christian College titled The Psalms, The Arts, and Worship.
During the summer of 2010, Thompson co-directed Bridging Musicology and Composition: The Global Significance of Bartok’s Method, a symposium and festival presented by the Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College, Cambridge. He also publishes Pittsburgh New Music Net, a widely read blog about contemporary music in Pittsburgh.
Thompson was born in Baltimore and grew up in Forest Hill, Maryland. He received his early musical training through Harford County’s excellent public education system and Peabody Conservatory’s preparatory school studying trombone and composition. Thompson completed his undergraduate work at Oberlin Conservatory where he studied trombone with Per Brevig and Raymond Premru and composition with Michael Daugherty. He earned his MA and PhD in composition and theory from the University of Pittsburgh where his principal teachers were Mathew Rosenblum, Eric Moe, David Keberle, and Anne LeBaron.
Thompson lives in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood with his wife, two children, and a miniature poodle named Tonks. Along with composing, he runs Pierogie Lunaire Studio where he makes a point of producing as many genres as he possibly can.