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Phillip Bimstein: Larkin Gifford's Harmonica

by Starkland

  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Comes with a 7-page insert including the composer's bio and program notes, and an Introduction by John Adams.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Phillip Bimstein: Larkin Gifford's Harmonica via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 7 days

      $14 USD or more 


  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      $9 USD  or more




“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.”
– New York Times

John Adams comments, “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.”

On Bimstein’s first Starkland CD, the beloved piece “Garland Hirschi’s Cows” generated hundreds of calls to radio stations and was anointed “a cult classic” on NPR’s All Things Considered. Bimstein’s followup was “Larkin Gifford’s Harmonica,” a poignant portrait of the elderly Larkin Gifford, who offers vibrant stories, including his lifelong love of playing the harmonica. Bimstein describes stopping by Larkin Gifford’s house one day:

“Larkin was a delightful man with great stories to tell, and he loved playing the harmonica. I recorded Larkin playing old tunes from his youth … I deconstructed his harmonica tunes into bits and pieces, and then reassembled them into new music which retains some of the character and tone of Larkin’s playing. I also weaved Larkin’s spoken memories through the patterns in the music.”

Another electroacoustic portrait, “Bushy Wushy the Beer Man,” features the delightful, funny, and genuine Bushy Wushy, who sold beer in Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, for more than forty years. Bimstein visited Busch Stadium, recording the crack of the bat from behind home plate, the ball slamming into the catcher’s mitt, and other baseball game sounds. He then combined these sampled sounds with stories told by the charming Bushy Wushy, all tied together with a score for wind quintet.

“Casino” is another electroacoustic sonic portrait of both an individual and a unique American city. We learn of a dice-caller Tom Martinet who offers insights into gambling superstitions and psychologies, and the fascination many have with Las Vegas. Bimstein also recorded the percussive sounds of slot machines, roulette wheels, dice, poker chips, coins, cards, and the big wheel. He composed a wind quintet score which grows out of all this material.

The CD also offers two purely acoustic instrumental works. “Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa” emerges from Bimstein’s fascination with the environmental sounds at Zion National Park in Utah. He recorded singing canyon tree frogs, howling coyotes, chirping crickets, and water sounds from the Virgin River. He then shaped these into composed music with an interacting live oboe.

The other instrumental work, “Rockville Utah 1926,” is based on melodic material from his work “Garland Hirschi’s Cows.” The title refers to the place and date of Garland’s birth. The piece evokes the pastoral and active life of remote rural Utahns at that time.

John Adams concludes, “Listening to this album of Bimstein’s compositions makes me feel like I’ve taken a slow drive through a western landscape, meeting along the way everyone from Georgia O’Keeffe to Tony Hillerman, Mark Twain, Neal Cassady, Raymond Scott, Kurt Weill, Aphex Twin, and some of those grizzled geezers that populate the novels of Annie Proulx.”


“An engaging introduction to ... his quirky electro-acoustic compositions”
– New York Times

“An American original ... stunning and heartwarming ... delightful musical journeys”
– Stereophile


Bimstein resides in Utah, where he served as mayor of Springdale, prompting Outside magazine to call him “America’s only all-natural politician composer.” His music combines acoustic instruments with found sounds and voices to paint portraits and tell stories. Bimstein’s music has been performed at Lincoln Center, Bang on a Can, and London’s Royal Opera House. In addition to his studies of theory, composition, and orchestration at the Chicago Conservatory and UCLA, Bimstein led the new wave band Phil ‘n’ the Blanks, whose albums and videos were college radio and MTV hits.


released October 24, 2006

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Starkland Boulder, Colorado

Starkland releases engaging, compelling recordings of alternative classical, experimental, and avant-garde music.

“Always worth exploring.” – New Music Box

“For anyone with open ears, Starkland is essential listening.” – John Luther Adams

“Great avant-garde recordings… a new music force.” – Sequenza21

“Challenging and beautiful and provocative and powerful music.” – David Lang
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