The minimalist composer Phill Niblock’s Annual Winter Solstice Concert was a great success on Friday night at Roulette in downtown Brooklyn. Featuring Niblock himself on minimalist electronics as well as the guitarists Robert Poss, David Watson, and David First, the six-hour-long concert was a study in timbral interference and the tactile dimension of sound. The guitar trio began the evening with a droning, nuanced and subtly evolving improvisation, and then handed the floor to Mr Niblock for two sets, a pattern which was more or less repeated throughout the night. Each set was perhaps half an hour long, and the sound palettes used were just varied enough from set to set to maintain a sense that one was moving through the experience of a concert, rather than becalmed in a warm aural bath.

The film installation, also created by Phill Niblock, provided great fodder for a critic looking for something to talk about, but in all seriousness was well composed and added depth to the unique experience. There were three screens arranged on three sides of the audience on the main floor, all showing scenes of various kinds of work. This was anything from a shoemaker cutting, shaping, and sewing leather pieces to make shoes, to the slaughter and butchering of animals and fish, to blacksmithing and horseshoeing, to harvesting timber and forestry maintenance, to bricklaying and carpentry.

The visuals were thoroughly engrossing, usually following a task through several stages. In the metalworking scene, for example, we begin with the horseshoe in the fire, then being shaped and perforated on the anvil in preparation for nailing. Then we come to the cleaning of the horse’s hoof, followed by cauterizing and finally shoeing the horse. Beyond providing a basic counterpoint to the nearly static music, the productive action is narrative, and gives a shape to the aural experience that might otherwise make very great demands on an audience’s powers of attention.

Following the task through physical transformation is a little bit about the vicarious pleasure of accomplishing something, but it is also about our relationship with things that aren’t human. The film lingers on the material and materiality of work, reminding us of how we transform objects from their natural state into something useful to us. Interestingly, there were a few, but only a few, scenes of productive work that might have been called artistic – a flat statue of stone being filed down and colored white, an item of cloth or canvas with wooden ribbing being painted in ink with images of leaves – but these scenes were infrequent and, because of the context, came off highlighting the work accomplished, rather than the aesthetic value of the object or the process involved.

As a celebration, or at least an observance, of the Solstice, the performance is right to depict the things that many, many people do every day. Perhaps as a time of reflection on the past and speculation about the future, the solstice gives us time to abide in stillness and meditate on actions. In a musical sense, this stasis was effectively employed, and not overwrought. The mid-range frequencies of the drones gave the space a womb-like feel, and that closeness was set in friction with the cicada-like interference between high-frequency partials that emerged and disappeared as the music gradually shifted to silence. Another piece began soon, with clearly recognizable recordings of low string instruments, slowly building up to encompass nearly the entire audible spectrum. As the drone resumed, it became clear that even unique material, when combined and recombined, wound up making much the same massy cloud of sound as the others. While the world turns, we can feel some measure of stillness.

As with many holidays, I ducked out an hour early, clutching my precious experience as though it were something I could lose by distraction or accident. The celebration of solstices, as a late-20th-century phenomenon, has to me always had an air of strangeness that clashes with the feeling of observance and periodicity that comes along with annual events. More than both of those registers, though, last night’s concert achieved an intimacy, an accessibility and a warmth that I suspect to be typical of Niblock’s work.