Click on in the upper left corner to access the full playlist


contact: pgilb[at]unm.edu

Reviews
“Gilbert writes music of gorgeous imagery. Breathy whispers and glassy sonorities wash into clusters of chords left to resonate in midair. ...In the fifth song of the set, a colorful depiction of the sea, the singers faced away from the audience, their sweeps of overlapping voices floated in the chapel like distant echoes. Hess added wire-brush strokes on snare drum for gentle waves. Facing the audience out front, alto Emily Marvosh delivered the text in a haunting solo. ...In the final verse, which evokes of summer night, the Lorelei voices melded into warm harmonies that wafted like perfume over Stephanie Kacoyanis’ velvety alto solo.”
(Aaron Keebaugh, Boston Classical Review : 2013)

“Filled with the ghosts of sounds. He captures a dark, yet hopeful wonder through variation in color, mood, and the semblance of melodies. ...Ethereal, ambient, and benignly haunting like a morning fog on the ocean. There is always something hidden, just beyond what is happening, that seems to slowly reveal itself but never quite does. Underlying pedals shift and resolutions that should have happened are left hanging in your ear.”
(Kraig Lamper, American Record Guide : 2011)

“Peter Gilbert’s [music with its] dark broiling clouds of sound from which, unexpectedly, Schumann’s song ‘Der Nußbaum’ emerged, is well heard”
(Detlef Brandenburg, Die Deutsche Bühne : 2011)

“Phrases surge and wane, emerging as if from the past or from around a corner”
(Barry Kilpatrick, American Record Guide : 2011)

“I actually found most beautiful [the music of] Peter Gilbert, an American who composed a manner of Lamento in which one hears romantic sound-allusions over a vibrating, dissonant orchestral foundation.”
(Stefan Keim, “Mosaik”, WDR 3, West German Radio : 2011)

“Particularly appealing on a first hearing, with infectious rhythms”
(Steven Rings, American Record Guide : 2006)

“Thought-provoking and stimulating. ...The human mind obviously has to adjust to the technological surrounding and the composition seems to end somewhere in outer space.”
(Göran Forsling, Music Web International : 2005)
Biography

Peter Gilbert says of his music, "I'm asking performers to listen, to immerse themselves in the sound of the piece. I think of my role as inventing a landscape or an architecture. The music then lives through their sensitive responses to those surroundings. Fortunately, I've been lucky to have incredible collaborators throughout my life."

His work combines traditional instrumental writing with elements of improvisation, live-performed electronics, and other media. His multi-media opera dreimaldrei gleich unendlich, written with his partner, composer Karola Obermüller, was premiered in 2009 as part of the Musik der Jahrhunderte festival in Stuttgart and is featured in the "Imagining Media" exhibition celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ZKM | Institut für Akustik und Musik (Karlsruhe, Germany). Their interactive installations have been presented at the Davis Museum, Balance/Unbalance and the Global Composition conference. They were also part of a collaborative group of composers who received a Siemens Foundation grant for the experimental music theatre piece Robert S. for Theater Bonn in 2011.

Gilbert has held artist residencies at ZKM, Bourges (France), La Mortella (Italy), and Treehaven (Wisconsin), has been a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany) and has been composer-in-residence for the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival. Other prizes and commissions have come from the Barlow Foundation, the Russolo Foundation, the Look & Listen Festival, the Third Practice Festival, the Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges, the Washington International Composers Competition and the ZKM | Institut für Akustik und Musik.

He has taught composition, electronic music, music theory and music history at Harvard University, Wellesley College, Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Case Western Reserve University, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Gilbert was founder and co-directer of the Young Composers Program at CIM from 2003-2010. He holds a BM from Illinois Wesleyan University, an MM from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a PhD from Harvard University.

Gilbert and Obermüller currently direct the composition program at the University of New Mexico.

Faculty Page at UNM

contact: pgilb[at]unm.edu

Photo by Tom Hayes

CDs
Click on icons for more information or for purchase
The Bold Arch
of Undreamt Bridges
Music of Peter Gilbert
New Focus Recordings
Deviation
Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble
GM Recordings
Resonance
Daniel Lippel, guitar
New Focus Recordings
Third Practice
Electronic Music from the Third Practice Festival
Centaur Records
Sustenance Variations
Contemporary Chamber Music
New Focus Recordings
Program Note from The Bold Arch of Undreamt Bridges

"Precisely somewhere at a point in between stations of the known I find what I am looking for: the act of discovery. These pieces have all been a hands-on experience of discovery for my collaborators and me. My role as composer has been to initiate, so that the opportunity comes for something marvelous to take place. I have asked the players to go into the sound and they have bared themselves generously in service of the music. As Rilke says, it is only through unencumbered participation that miracles are possible.

I want to choose like the child who acts both with absolute freedom and absolute decision. I want the tone, this tone, to ring with the calm clarity of ease, with the intensity of sureness. Each piece is precise and we have come to understand each one in the shape and quality of a single note, a single sound—a distance at which the form of things can be better discerned.

It is the joy of a single, beautiful note that I want to consistently maintain through tears and through radiance. From this core grows the larger sound, breathing, evolving. Tones pour freely and openly into one another, sequentially and simultaneously. We are together. Individuals emerge magically out of and pass seamlessly back into the musical world surrounding them: other voices, note-rich harmonies, echoes-of-self, the spaces and silences around. The music joins the river, transcending instrumental limitation, sounding the supernatural."

Projects

dreimaldrei gleich unendlich (3x3=∞)
A multi-media opera

→ Trailers Page


The Listen
A book about challenging contemporary music

→Book Page


Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


Chamber & Solo Works (scroll down)

colors of early morning, of clear skies, of salt. 2016. (String Quartet)

New Scenes from an Old World (Piano Sonata). 2015-6. (Piano)

Four Intermezzi. 2015. (Piano)

Against the Sky. 2014. (Horn, Piano)

Tsukimi. 2013. (8 female voices)

Si doulcement me fait Amours doloir. 2013. (Oboe, Viola)

Morning Shades. 2013. (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon)

Soon. 2012. (Piano)

By the Lonely Traveller’s Call. 2011. (Amplified Tuba)

Ricochet Remix. 2011. (Guitar, Live Electronics)

Lament of the Lusignans. 2010. (Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello, Piano)

Baptizing the Loop Station. 2008. (Electric Guitar, Electronics)

We felt the spirits so near. 2008. (Instruments, Live Electronics)

Hear as the night hollows. 2008. (Clarinet, Electronics)

Für Wilfried. 2008. (Horn – with K.Obermüller)

Elegie. 2008. (1: Flute, Live Electronics | 2: Recorder, Live Electronics)

allen den stillen Geschwistern im Winde der Wiesen. 2007. (Saxophone, Live Electronics)

the bold arch of undreamt bridges. 2006. (Fl, Cl, Sax, Bsn, Tpt, Vln, Vla, Vc, Perc, Live Electronics)

the palm of your hand touches my body. 2006. (Recorder, Live Electronics)

as it now becomes us. 2006. (String Quartet, Live Electronics)

Nenia. 2005. (a.Mezzo-Soprano, Guitar; b.Mezzo-Soprano, Piano)

Prow's Edge. 2005. (Piano)

"Awake & Shine: Three Hymns of New England". 2005. (Guitar, String Quartet)

"Ballade". 2003. (Flute, Bass Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano, Percussion)

"Be Your Tears Wet?". 2003. (Solo Violin)

Ricochet. 2002. (Guitar and Stereo Play)

Burn. 2002. (A: Clarinet, Electric Guitar, Cello, Piano, Percussion. B: Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano, Percussion)

Meditations. 2001. (Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Cello, Piano)

Three Preludes. 2001. (Viola)

Intrada. 2001. (Percussion Quartet)

Yellow Roses. 2000. (English Horn and Violin)

Epigrams for Solo Trumpet. 2000.

Tracings. 2000. (Horn and Piano)

Scherzabolique. 2000. (Solo Piano)

Canons for Brass Quintet. 1999.

Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


Works with Electronics (scroll down)

Waves. 2015. (Live electronics)

last breaths of a disappearing horizon. 2013-4. (Guitar, Live Electronics)

from The Book of Resounding Harmonies. 2013. (Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano, Percussion, Live Electronics)

Spirit Steps. 2013. (Electronics)

Listening to Mountains. 2012-3. (Interactive Installation – with K.Obermüller)

Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main. 2012. (Electronics)

Ricochet Remix. 2011. (Guitar, Live Electronics)

drei mal drei gleich unendlich. 2009-10. (Multimedia Opera : 4 voices, 2 actors, clarinets, accordion, cello, live electronics & live video)
with composer Karola Obermüller

Innovation and the Fate of Nations. 2010. (Soundtrack)
with guitarist Daniel Lippel and the Peter Gilbert Singers.

The Ringing of Golden Balconies. 2009. (Large Wind Ensemble, Electronics)

An Overlapping of Spaces. 2009. (Interactive Museum Installation – with K.Obermüller)

Songs from the Tundra. 2008-9. (Soundtrack)
with cellist David Russell

Baptizing the Loop Station. 2008. (Electric Guitar, Electronics)

Flexible Passages. 2008. (Live Electronics) for Flexible Music

We felt the spirits so near. 2008. (Instruments, Live Electronics)

Hear as the night hollows. 2008. (Clarinet, Electronics)

Elegie. 2008. (1: Flute, Live Electronics | 2: Recorder, Live Electronics)

allen den stillen Geschwistern im Winde der Wiesen. 2007. (Saxophone, Live Electronics)

Passages. 2007-8. (Electronics) for Sustenance (NewFocus)

the bold arch of undreamt bridges. 2006. (Fl, Cl, Sax, Bsn, Tpt, Vln, Vla, Vc, Perc, Live Electronics)

the palm of your hand touches my body. 2006. (Recorder, Live Electronics)

as it now becomes us. 2006. (String Quartet, Live Electronics)

The Bourges Pods. 2004. (Quad or Stereo Play)
Stop the Presses, Northern Lights, Ohm

Interior Steps. 2004. (Electronic Soundscore for Dance)

Music for Sweet Bird of Youth, by Tennessee Williams. 2004. (Incidental Music)
with Eleni Andreadis

Prelude Fantasies. 2004. (Quad or Stereo Play)

Hyperburn. 2004. (Quad or Stereo Play)

Blow, Bugle, Blow. 2003. (Stereo Play)

Ricochet. 2002. (Guitar and Stereo Play)

Rituals. 2002. (Stereo Play)

Interlude. 2002. (Stereo Play)
The Ringing of Golden Balconies. 2009. (Large Wind Ensemble, Electronics)

Revealing Distant Cities. 2008. (Chamber Orchestra)

Fanfare in Memoriam. 2001. (Brass Choir: 5 Trumpets, 4 Horns, 2 Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba)

Pulses. 2001. (Full Orchestra : 2,2,2,2 * 4,3,3,1 * 3 + Timp. * Strings)

Terpsichoros. 1999. (Full Orchestra : 3,3,3,2 * 4,3,3,1 * Timp. * Harp * Strings)

Sculpture I: "The Prisoners". 1999 (Chamber Orchestra : 2,2,2,2 * 2,1,1,0 * 1 + Timp. * Strings)

"Dreams of You". 1999. (A: Soprano, String Quartet. B: Soprano, String Orchestra)
On an original text.

Introduction and Passacaglia. 1998. (Full Orchestra : 3,3,3,2 * 4,3,3,1 * 2 + Timp. * Harp * Strings)

Fanfare. 1997, Revised 1998 (Brass Choir: 5 Trumpets, 4 Horns, 2 Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba)
Painting Albuquerque. 2015. (Soundtrack)
for KNME.

Robert S.. 2010-11. (Opera)
with composers Georg Katzer, Sergej Newski, Karola Obermüller and Annette Schlünz

drei mal drei gleich unendlich. 2009-10. (Multimedia Opera : 4 voices, 2 actors, clarinets, accordion, cello, live electronics & live video)
with composer Karola Obermüller

Innovation and the Fate of Nations. 2010. (Soundtrack)
with guitarist Daniel Lippel and the Peter Gilbert Singers.

Songs from the Tundra. 2008-9. (Soundtrack)
with cellist David Russell

Interior Steps. 2004. (Electronic Soundscore for Dance)

Music for Sweet Bird of Youth, by Tennessee Williams. 2004. (Incidental Music)
with Eleni Andreadis

Toward. 2002. (Live Electronic Soundscore for Dance)
Pop, Imaginary Landscapes, Clip-Clop, Toward

Music for Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard. 1997. (Incidental Music)

Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


By Instrument [click headers to expand and collapse]
for eight solo female voices
with optional percussion
c.10:00
Commissioned by the Lorelei Ensemble

Program Note:
Tsukimi is a traditional Japanese celebration of the full moon (translated as “Moon Viewing”) which dates back to the Heian period (roughly 800AD-1200AD). The Heian era was a great era for Japanese literature and saw the revival of native waka poetry. The waka became more concise at this point, bearing only five lines: three of 5-7-5 syllable lengths (which would eventually stand alone as the hokku) and two final lines of 7 syllables each.

A famous anthology of the time, the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, brings together 100 great poems of the time by different poets. Powerful and condensed, they leverage the broad-reaching contemplations of Buddhism to create moments of simultaneous descriptive, intellectual and spiritual beauty.

The moon is one of Buddhism’s great symbols. Itself a surface of reflection, it makes a wonderful mirror for the concept of the illusion of the senses. This sense of the illusory nature of our experience of life is summarized by a single word in Japanese: ukiyo, which translates as “floating world” but really implies the world of the senses hovering all around us. The Ogura Hyakunin Isshu is full of such remarkably dense imagery.

For me, reading them in a foreign language, the poems themselves are especially like the moon’s light: reflections beyond my grasp that illuminate the world about me in magically ethereal hues—emotional, ephemeral, slipping back into invisibility.

Premiered November 23, 2013
by Lorelei Ensemble, Beth Willer, conductor
Boston University Marsh Chapel Boston, MA


PDF Sample of Tsukimi (includes the first page of each movement)

Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


Si Doulcement me fait Amours doloir | If one has courage it Is no sorrow to invent songs 2013
for oboe and viola
c.7:00
Commissioned by the Kevin Vigneau and Kim Fredenberg

Program Note:
"What strains flow forth when we lean in
and listen close, across the distance
to the last words of recognition we can hear.

What tender life is right there in between
with the pain of sweetness and sweetness of pain
that strengthens through the journey and lets joy sear."

This duet is unusual in that the parts of the duet are quite different in conception, style and notation. However, both are influenced by music found in a very unique manuscript—a singular collection of 15th century music from Cyprus for which the only historical record is found in one document in Turin. The oboe part is titled "Si doulcement me fait Amours doloir” after the piece of the same name. It moves rhapsodically through reconceived materials derived from the polyphonic original. The viola part has no direct correspondence to music in the collection, but it is inspired by the feel and flow of that striking repertoire.

Separated by time and space, the parts of this duet are like isolated pages of history laid atop one another: apart they each tell a story of their time, but together they begin to paint a more complete picture of human experience.

The viola part's title comes from a line in Si doulcement…: "Qui de ceur fort il ne li grieve mie/ S'il a travail pour nouviaux chans trouver" (If one has courage, it is no sorrow to invent songs). For me the "courage" here was letting go of a sense of personal or musical importance and simply allowing pieces to come into being. Indeed, just by having fun with it, this piece was a great joy to "invent" and I'm so grateful to Kim Fredenberg and Kevin Vigneau for their artistry, collaborative spirit and friendship in developing its first performance.

Premiered November 2013
by Kim Fredenberg and Kevin Vigneau
Escola de Música da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


Revealing Distant Cities 2006
for alto flute, oboe, bass clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion, violin 1 & 2, viola, cello, and contrabass (with alternate instrumentations available)
c.7:30

Program Note:
"These words and actions were perhaps only imagined, as the two, silent and motionless, watched the smoke rise slowly from their pipes. The cloud dissolved at times in a wisp of wind, or else remained suspended in mid-air; and the answer was in that cloud. As the puff carried the smoke away, Marco thought of the mists that cloud the expanse of the sea and the mountain ranges and, when dispelled, leave the air dry and diaphanous, revealing distant cities. It was beyond that screen of fickle humors that his gaze wished to arrive: the form of things can be discerned better at a distance.

Or else the cloud hovered, having barely left the lips, dense and slow, and suggested another vision: the exhalations that hang over the roofs of the metropolises, the opaque smoke that is not scattered, the hood of miasmata that weighs over the bituminous streets. Not the labile mists of memory nor the dry transparence, but the charring of burned lives that forms a scab on the city, the sponge swollen with vital matter that no longer flows, the jam of past, present, future that blocks existences calcified in the illusion of movement: this is what you would find at the end of your journey."

Italo Calvino, trans. William Weaver. Invisible Cities (Harcourt, pgs.98-99)

AVAILABLE on New Focus Recordings

Original instrumentation premiered in 2006
at Harvard University, Eric Hewitt, conducting.

Version with harp premiered in 2008
at the Acanthes Festival, Zsolt Nagy, conducting.

Augmented string instrumentation premiered in 2014
at Hochschule für Musik Nürnberg,
Festival Aktuelle Musik, Manuel Nawri, conducting.
Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


dreimaldrei gleich unendlich (3 x 3 = ∞) 2009-10
Multimedia Opera for 4 voices, 2 actors, clarinets, accordion, cello, live electronics & live video

collaboratively composed with Karola Obermüller on a libretto by Tina Hartmann
c.75:00

Program Note:
3 x 3 = ∞ explores the human cost of genocide as seen through hindsight. On an otherwise ordinary day, a researcher (Frau A) is stunned when a tinnitus in her ear morphs into a mysterious message. The message seems to be connected to an image of three people and it tells her that she can help explain why these people have disappeared, that she can bring the truth to light and see justice served.

As she investigates the human-rights catastrophe surrounding their tragedy, voices from the past take on a life of their own and begin to intertwine with repressed memories of her own. The deeper she probes, the more personally she seems to be involved. Is she losing her grip on reality or was she actually there? What are the implications if she is a survivor? Is she guilty of allowing evils to unfold?

Tina Hartmann's libretto weaves a mysterious triangle of victims, perpetrators and survivors. At its center, a lost woman struggles to reconcile the past with the present and to answer the question, how does one live on?

Co-produced by ZKM | Institute for Music and Acoustics,
Akademie Schloss Solitude,
and the Musik der Jahrhunderte Festival Stuttgart.

Stage Direction by Hendrik Müller, Conducted by Barabara Rucha,
Video by José Carlos Teixeira


Excerpt from dreimaldrei gleich unendlich
Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


Song from the Tundra 2008-9
Film short soundtrack
c.15:00

Program Note:
Songs from the Tundra, a short documentary film by Alexander Berman, is a lyric journey through Russia’s most remote frontier, Songs from the Tundra follows Eveny reindeer herders to the foot of Kamchatka’s Alney volcano. Without commentary, this beautifully photographed film rides with the Eveny on the back of a massive all-terrain tank over forest, stream, and boulder. The film unfolds in a series of native Eveny songs belonging to a forgotten generation. The warbling voice of the blind narrator reveals a world of so much natural myth invested in a surprisingly industrial reality.

"Music that captures …the most remote civilization" (Kino-Kolo)

"A film about people trying to salvage history in a changing world" (Arts Spectrum Magazine)

Grand Jury Prize, Provincetown International Film Festival
Official Selection idfa 2009
Official Selection Molodist 39
Official Selection 50th Festival dei Popoli


Excerpt from the recording sheets for Songs from the Tundra
Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


Rituals 2002
fixed media
5:00

Program Note:
It's no surprise that rituals are often of interest to composers—ritual is the composer's performance space. Ritual eschews time’s arrow to rethink history as unending circles of repetition, crossing temporal boundaries so that we find our modern selves in the middle of the mysterious and magical rites of our forerunners (as they were or as we imagine them to have been).

My piece, Rituals, takes place in a dream state, where sensory experiences and visions of transcendent spaces (or perhaps the darkest caverns of our memory) blur together.

AVAILABLE on Centaur Records (Third Practice Commissions and Premieres)



Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


Morning Shades 2013
for woodwind quintet
7:00

Program Note:
As veils of deep damp green lift from yawning fronds
the dew begins its long journey back to the stream now flowing across stretching stones.
Hues emerge across the surface of leaves
and light makes its way, slowly, down the canopy.

Pause
a moment
and be a part of the coming into being.
Absorb the sound and the smell of all this
which will later bid us goodnight
when the next growths begin beyond our watch.

Premiered 2014
by New Mexico Winds
Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


New Scenes from an Old World (Piano Sonata) 2007-2015
for piano
13:30

I. Prow's Edge (2007)
II. Plain Music (2015)
III. Face of Shadow (2013)

Program Note:
These piano works may be done separately or as a single piece. "Plain Music" originated as part of the score for the documentary Painting Albuquerque. "Face of Shadow" originated as part of the work for Horn and Piano Against the Sky. Each work seeks to establish a very different scenic world.


PDF Sample of New Scenes from an Old World (includes the first page of each movement)

Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


Elegie 2008
for flute and live electronics
for recorder and live electronics
18:00

Program Note:
Elegie continues a series of works written in 2008 that have all dealt with death--the horizon point between the light of the known and the shadow of the unknown. My temptation has been to dwell in a consideration of both orientations (simultaneous? superimposed?).

Rilke suggests,"the living are wrong to believe in the too-sharp distinctions which they themselves have created." Perhaps in the time of bothness it is unclear what is shadow and what is light. After all, as clouds drift past the moon they are dark on one side and illuminated on the other. Likewise the moon. Like wise the cries and tears of joy and sorrow, which ring in our ears and resound from distant places as we come forward to either receive or relay the warmth of light and the gentle cover of shadow.

Flute version premiered by Mario Caroli (2008) at Harvard University
Recorder version premiered by Monika Tahiri (2015) at the Nürnberg Hochschule für Musik
Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


colors of early morning, of clear skies, of salt 2015-16
for string quartet
13:30
based upon the poem "Old Salt Woman" by Luci Tapahonso

PDF Sample of colors of early morning, of clear skies, of salt

Program Note:
What you notice when you meet poet Luci Tapahonso is the strong clarity of her personhood. The richness of her interaction with life comes forth from her matriarchal eyes the way I imagine it would from the eponymous mythical figure in Tapahonso’s poem Old Salt Woman. I find the poem entrancing for so many reasons but perhaps none more so than the intriguing sense of time. The poem begins at the beginning of human history shortly after the birth of First Baby. The narrative flows forwards full of echoes from Old Salt Woman’s past until the it magically morphs into the ongoing tradition of the First Laugh Ceremony of the Navajos that continues today. The “oneness” of the Navajo worldview (in which all things are manifestations of a unity rather than the obsessive fragmentation of the Euro-American perspective) here relates to time as well, where the ancient and the present slip back and forth seamlessly.

As a sestina, the poem has built into its traditional form numerous repetitions but two of these end words are particularly important to my reading. One is “color”. In addition to the colors of early morning, clear skies and salt, there are colors of laughter, 0f light effervescence, of sharing, of betrothal and betrayal, as well as the intense colors of midnight, the ageless colors of stones, and love’s radiant colors. This suggested to me a sound world driven by sonic shapes and hues more than by 19th century European melodies and harmonies. Perhaps the most important color is the color of laughter at the heart of the poem. The baby’s first laugh is a sacred rite for the Navajo that brings family together to rejoice in the healing power of sharing laughter. It was important for me to get that boisterous guttural explosion out of the quartet.

The other image source I focused on is the river. Water flows through this poem at every turn. In addition to the geographical San Juan river and the thin brown rivers at Dinétah, there are rivers of luminous beads, of baby laughter, of angry words, and the crystal rivers of salt beneath our feet. I attempted to weave that sense of motion into the fabric of the piece the way I enjoy it in Tapahonso’s words. Her sentences continue past the ends of each of the sestina’s six stanzas moving directly without break into the next, creating a sense of on-going that makes the whole poem into a river.

One last point I think is interesting is the way that age plays into the sense of time. The poem tells us early on of Old Salt Woman that “her true essence became apparent in her autumn years” and it is only over time that “she was able to transform the grief into exquisite songs of beauty.” Similarly, First Baby who would ultimately grow up to be the centrally important figure White Shell Girl, guides us to old age with her lilting songs. The songs don’t rush to fill an urgent present. Just as it took time for the sorrows of Old Salt Woman to metamorphose into serenity, I’ve tried to compose this piece with an abiding sense of patience and unfolding.

This piece is a setting of Old Salt Woman the way one sets a poem in an art song. The viola performs the role of singer, helping to keep us grounded in the poet’s point of view as time shifts around us and the dance of colors envelopes us. The poem is full of magical songs. I’ve deliberately not tried to recreate or even refer to the magical songs of the Navajo people, but rather to invoke something more strange and unknown that can be its own song of joy and wonder. I have, however, used my analysis of the lilting of Tapahonso’s own voice as a point of departure so that this new song, however distantly, still echoes something essential of her.

Premiere March 31, 2016 by the Amernet String Quartet
Works
Chamber Music | Electronics | Large Ensemble | Stage & Cinema
Works by Instrument Type


Four Intermezzi 2015-16
for piano
8:00

PDF Sample of Four Intermezzi (includes the first page of each movement)

Program Note:
I have a strong love for 19th century repertoire but in my composing I generally avoid addressing this legacy head-on. It is an unforgiving and, to be truthful, overwhelming task. And perhaps it is the contrarian streak in a composers training that then compelled me to try to do just that in these pieces. These short works are not attempts at copying 19th century style. They are rather attempts to encounter it. In many ways these pieces are an oblique homage to Brahms. I admire so much his ability to create the beautiful dense forest of rich relationships in which every single note seems to pull upon the others, smoothly gliding through each transition with silently meshing gears invisible to the eye.

But one can not recreate Brahms, or at least I will not. These pieces are rather somewhere in between then and me....

...or perhaps they are really just a point of pause between then and wherever I may be going—intermezzi, which become momentarily audible and then disappear again into whatever will be next.



Premiere November, 2016 by Emanuele Arciulit
Teaching

The composition program at the University of New Mexico offers students a wealth of learning opportunities on the way towards achieving either a Bachlers or Masters degree in Music (BM & MM). Gilbert teaches composition courses and individual studio lessons alongside an outstanding collection of teachers and musicians.

Composition at the University of New Mexico


Gilbert delivering a talk on gesture at the University of Glasgow.