Harley Gaber - American minimalist composer, visual artist, photographer and film maker. Born in Chicago on June 5, 1943. Committed suicide in Gallup, New Mexico on June 16, 2011. He took a break from composing in 1978 (to play tennis) and didn’t resume until 2003. He studied music with Horace Reisberg, Darius Milhaud, Lejaren Hiller, Aldo Clementi, Franco Evangelisti, Giacinto Scelsi, Giulio Rotoli, William Sydeman, and most importantly Kenneth Gaburo.
from the Wire:
When Harley Gaber gave up composing in 1977 at the age of 44 to devote his attention to, of all things, teaching and playing tennis, only three of his works had appeared on disc: Kata and Ludus Primus on CRI in 1972, and 1975’s monumental 104 minute string quintet The Winds Rise In The North on Titanic Records four years later.
|Ludus Primus / Kata|
| part one part two |
What goes around comes around. With its emphasis on quiet sustained sounds interspersed with stretches of silence, Gaber’s early 1970s music predated John Cage’s number pieces by 15 years and the Wandelweiser Group by 20. Though Winds made it to The Wire contributor Alan Licht’s extended Minimal Top Ten list, it would be a mistake to file Gaber away as just another minimalist. A veritable renaissance man whose artistic activities also include painting, calligraphy, photography and installation work, he studied with Kenneth Gaburo and Lejaren Hiller at the University of Illinois and with Clementi, Evangelisti and Scelsi in Rome in 1964.
Sovereign Of The Centre, scored for four violins, is more discontinuous in texture than Winds, its fondness for semitones and their major 7th/minor 9th inversions revealing Gaber’s affection for Anton Webern. “Those of us who came after Webern eventually came to understand that a so-called moment could be perceived as either an eternity or, in common parlance, a nano-flicker,” he writes, an observation that connects to his studies of Oriental thought and religion but also to Stockhausen’s concept of ‘Moment form’, in which “each and every Now is not unremittingly regarded as the mere consequence of the one which preceded it… but rather as something personal, independent and centred, capable of existing on its own.” At times Sovereign seems like a tiny moment from a Webern quartet, frozen in time and put under the microscope to reveal its inner details. It’s what Gaber calls slowed-down sound, a direction he began to explore back in 1968 with the alto flute piece Chimyaku, and in his essay accompanying the release he points to the crucial distinction between slow (he cites Feldman) and slowed-down music. Watching someone walking very slowly isn’t the same as watching slow motion footage of someone walking at normal speed. Simple musical figures – isolated pizzicati, subtle shifts of pitch and timbre – become extraordinary events, commonplace gestures become magical surprises.
When Gaber worked on the digital transfers of Michi, he found himself unable to remove the extraneous noise during the piece’s silences without dulling the sound of the violin itself. Superimposing several versions of the piece to cover some of the silences with sound, he began to explore the music’s hitherto unexplored harmonic potential. Aware that he was working on the 18th anniversary of his mother’s death, he began to see it as a whole new work. I Saw My Mother Ascending Mount Fuji is a spiritual journey with the violin as the principal protagonist. Finding the violin alone too austere, he added an accompanying soundscape of field recordings made in New Mexico and extracts from 1974’s The Death Of Chuang Tzu, which uses slowed-down recordings of the composer’s own breathing. He then incorporated his 1968 solo flute piece Chimyaku, slowing down and partially pitchshifting the flute until it attained a timbral quality between the acoustic violin and electronically manipulated soundscape. Gaber’s mix is exemplary, camouflaging the more obvious canonic procedures of the multitracked violins and placing the flute tones and field recording with remarkable care, as are the performances: David Gilbert’s exquisitely varied vibrato recalls the great shakuhachi master Watazumi Doso, and Cummiskey’s intonation and bow control are worthy of Irvine Arditti or Charles Curtis. The resulting 65 minute piece is a tour de force of spectral music, in both senses of the word, a remarkable journey across 40 years of artistic thought and development.
| i saw my mother ascending mount fuji |
| In Memoriam 2010 |
Portrait and Dream: In Memoriam Kenneth Gaburo"
In an Interview to Robert Reigle in 2010, Harley Gaber refered to "Turning Music" a lot. The Interview can be streamed here at Acoustic Levitation or download it here. Plus, you will find "The House of Tudor", which is a compostion of 2010 as well.
Harley Gaber @ Edition RZ
Harley Gaber @ Innova Recordings