We've updated our Terms of Use. You can review the changes here.

Phil's Fills

by Phil Strong

  • Streaming + Download

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

      name your price


Qui was mostly put together in 2007 by Phil’s partner in all things Laurel MacDonald, who was the recordist and choirmaster, and one of the sopranos for this resetting in 29 different and often simultaneous languages of a renaissance motet by Josquin des Prez. This short track begins with Tanya Tagaq’s contribution, then gradually introduces the choir into the cavernous crevasse we were creating this polycophony with 35 speakers distributed through five open storeys (see track 7 image and video), with each singer assigned to an individual speaker: one of which (Laurel) you hear then as if your close to her loudspeaker; then retreating into reverberance. 
The piece was one of many elements of a 24-hour 365.25-day schedule for a sonic clock created for the ROM, Canada’s largest natural and cultural history museum. Qui in various versions, was heard at various points of the day building from smaller ensembles and soloists through to the full choir at the day’s end. The programming of events, a combination of randomizations, and occurrences linked to many levels of natural and human chronologies happening simultaneously throughout the world, was done by Phil, cleverly utilizing two very common and stable off-the-shelf software programs. 
The video here is a little teaser i made of footage shot during the recording sessions; Laurel engineering from her studio a couple of floors above. At a later date she reassembled many of the singers for the official, award-winning video, a still from which graces this page.
Scissorcopter is Phil’s solo contribution to the soundtrack we prepared over the course of a month or more in the Rocky Mountains, our first time working together. I had brought along Miguel Frasconi as a co-composer and keyboard player. The footage for the ‘film’, subtitled The Trail of the Salmon [currently not found anywhere on the internet] had been shot, selected and given an order by the Flemish director, but had not yet been edited together. The director’s modus operandi for all his projects was to have a complete soundtrack created, including synchronized audio and video elements, and then to edit visuals to match that. Miguel and i each chose about half the scenes to work on individually, with the goal of completing at least one scene a day. Each of us had a studio and then there was Phil mostly in the main studio; usually tasked with some unusual way to approach creating or manipulating sound. It quickly became apparent that he was an excellent candidate for whatever idea i tossed at him (although i never did receive that the sound of a snowfall). 
Some of the aural scenes we created have had an autonomous life [check out the links on this page] I don’t remember if Phil created what i’m here calling ‘Scissorcopter’ by his own initiative, but it was entirely his idea to combine pulsed breathing and the snipping of scissors to save us the time, expense and cliché of renting a helicopter and a locomotive to accompany a dizzying array of aerial and rail shots through the surrounding mountains. It was an ideal juxtaposition; my favourite scene in the movie. 
Unfortunately there are considerable dropouts during this scene in my only A/V copy, an old VHS tape, so we are unable to show you this scene here, yet.
In 1992, at the behest and commission of John Zorn, i conceived of, and for the next six months put together Plexure [which will appear in a new version on bandcamp in the near future]. Phil was along for much of the ride. i had gathered excerpts from somewhere near a thousand songs and tunes, and desired to have these assembled in order from the slowest to fastest. There was a printed directory available to DJs that listed BPMs for many popular tracks, but it was often inaccurate and not precise enough for our purposes, so Phil often measured these visually by selecting a bar of the digital waveform and noting its physical length. The result was a long stereo file of bar-by-bar juxtapositions, from which i folded and bounced neighbouring electroquotes on 4 tracks (i.e 2 parallel stereo tracks) to create a large portion of the 19’19” long composition. I subsequently frequently returned to a progressively abridged version of Phil’s accelerando track, which 17 years later was finally released on LP as prePlex. 
While Phil was originally assembling the first version of that track, he also put together a performable plunderphonic of some of the sources from the Plexure era, including a particular favourite of his, Thomas Dolby’s Blinded by Science. This composition, which i gave the title plunderPHILe, was featured on a CD accompanying the Plunderphonia issue of Musicworks Magazine (#60 Fall 1994). Phil performed the piece to a live audience only once (that i know of) in 1997 at a festival in Toronto entitled Plunderpalooza. David Bowie was in town, and attended a performance, allegedly because he said he wished to meet me (we never met) the night Phil and i took turns between other acts playing short pieces on a small keyboard hooked up to an off-stage sampler. Bowie missed my bits but did catch Phil’s performance of plunderPHILe. The track here is a slightly re-arranged and abridged variation of the Musicworks version.
Although the immensely talented graphic poet Roslyn Schwartz commissioned me to compose the soundtrack for her animation Arkelope, i inevitably turned to Phil and said “strictly vocal sounds — let’s make an all acapella soundtrack”. And he, with cameo contributions from Laurel and Roz, smashed the record with this one. My contribution, for this album, is to recently edited out all the narrative voice-over material. What we have here is pure distilled vocal Phil.

swanning 00:26 video
Sifting through soundfiles with Phil’s name attached i came across a brief microphone test where Phil whistles Saint-Saens’s Swan theme while climbing down the stairs to where there is a can of water collecting drips from a ceiling leak in their house. This, in a myriad of ways, seems like an appropriate little segue into the next track.
Continuous Journey is a riveting 87-minute true story built mostly from a mere handful of still photographs by filmmaker Ali Kazimi, for which Phil composed and produced the entire soundscore — music, voices, and environments; one of many soundtracks he created in recent decades for a variety of media and disciplines. Phil released a soundtrack album for this film on bandcamp. I found the excerpt featured here buried in the files of our mutual web domain 6Q.com. I think its a great example of what Phil could conjure, when he wasn’t responding to my oddball suggestions. 
 The additional musicians on this excerpt are Shahid Ali Khan, vocal; Ravi Naimpally, tablas, Ben Grossman, hurdy gurdy; and Mark Korven, perhaps playing bowed metal rulers.
In early 2007 Phil and i were meeting every weekday at dawn and biking to the Royal Ontario Museum, where we more often than not had the place to ourselves. Our official territory was our closet in a sub basement containing amplifiers, interfaces, and a master computer; and our sounding space, which was a jagged slash five storeys tall in the centre of a newly constructed wing of the building. the slash or crevasse was the result of none of the adjacent galleries having parallel walls, neither horizontally nor vertically. Pedestrian bridges connecting spaces crisscrossed each level. We had 35 loudspeakers strategically installed in the walls and the paths and undersides of the bridges. Seven of these speakers were ultrasonic hyperdirectional drivers which could only be heard in narrow vectors beamed at various angles. There was no added visual component. Each morning Phil and i would program and mix and listen. We’d roam the halls to check how at a distance the sound of the whale wails or the extinction gong (which rang out every 19 minutes to indicate another living earth-based species had become extinct — a duration which programmed to get shorter as the months and years transpired). One day Phil wandered through the space with binaural microphones on his head, recording the environment, which he conflated into this demo track. Phil also created the video accompaniment in which he’s the shadowy figure wandering amongst the angles of architecture and sound. Heard here is a world of vocalizing creatures, whispered salutations, drifting drones, random soundmarks, whistled fragments, Phil and Laurel’s composition Nenia Sirens, Sashar Zarif intoning the Azan (synchronized with the sun setting on Mecca, sometime after noon in Toronto) Tanya Tagac again, a portion of the women singing Qui, ending with Sashar joining in Farsi, and a distant grandfather clock.


Donations in Phil’s memory are gratefully accepted by www.doctorswithoutborders.ca. As the always generous Phil would no doubt wish, in lieu of paying extravagantly here to own these tracks, please consider supporting Doctors Without Borders.

Phil Strong 1963 — 2022


released July 7, 2023

In 1991 Phil Strong rang the bell of the mLAB. At first glance, seeing him through the cracked-glass front door i thought ‘who is this young guy looking like an eager beaver?’ He introduced himself as the intern assigned to be my audio technician for an hour-long soundtrack i was scheduled to put together a few months hence at the recording studios of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, high in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. Phil, still on my doorstep, said he was just heading out there, and asked if there was anything he could do to prepare for this. I, off the cuff, on a whim and a dare, replied that he could try to record the sound of snow falling. It was still the season for this, and it would likely no longer be so by the time i got to Banff; which was convenient because i had no idea of how one would record a snowfall audibly.
To read more about what happened next, click on the title of track #2: ‘scissorcopter’ in the playlist above (or you can also hover your cursor over the blank space beside the ‘video’ link for each track and click the ‘lyric’ link which will appear). As is true of all the FONY releases on bandcamp, there is an individual image for each track, and for Fills each track has a related video, plus my story of how Phil created or contributed in a big way to each of these compositions as well as the many other unusual projects we concocted together over these past three decades, during which i quickly discovered that giving Phil free reign to create would consistently produce magnificent music. — john oswald

The cover image of Phil is not a collage. He is reflected in a two-metre mylar mirror mounted in the trees near Banff, one of several sites we used for a dawn to dust series of performances in motion entitled Inverted Mountains, Fluid Sky. Phil also has a smaller circular mirror pinned over his heart.* The largest of these mirrors was ten metres in diameter, resting at the foot of a mountain, and visible from its top, reflecting the rising sun.

* revision: Since the writing of this we decided to invert the colour spectrum of the forest behind the mirror, or in other words we flipped it to its negative state.





FONY is a 21st centuy record label focused on audiocentric creations by John Oswald and his associates—
works including Plunderphonics, the Rascali Klepitoire, Mystery Tapes, plus miscellaneous soundtracks, sonic inventions, site-conditioned performances or installations, et cetera.
Video and audio production and mastering passes through mLAB, where Oswald is Director of Research.
... more

contact / help

Contact FONY

Streaming and
Download help

Redeem code

Report this album or account

If you like Phil's Fills, you may also like: