Michael William Gilbert

Michael William Gilbert

Instrument: Synthesizer | Location: Springfield

Updated: November 1, 2021

Born: August 17, 1954

Michael William Gilbert grew up in Connecticut and Brussels, Belgium. While living in Europe he first encountered the music of Varese, Stockhausen, and Pierre Henry, as well as music of India, Africa, and Japan. After studying electrical engineering at MIT, he continued studies in music at the Boston School of Electronic Music, later as a teacher and designer of synthesis systems. He graduated with a degree in music from Hampshire College, and shortly thereafter became the technical director of electronic music studios at Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has since taught electronic music at Hampshire College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Holyoke Community College.

MW Gilbert has been composing and recording actively from the 1970's through the present. In 1978 he released his first LP, "Moving Pictures", with the goal of humanizing electronic music, using wooden flutes, percussion, and voice to complement synthesized sounds and textures. "The Call" (1980), his second LP, grew out of a desire to set jazz-influenced solo lines against a backing of drone, percussion, and soundscapes, also evoking aspects of Eastern music. "The Call" marks MW Gilbert's first work with multi­-wind and reed player Tim Moran, experimental percussionist/vocalist David Moss, and acoustic bassist Salvatore Macchia. The LP "In the Dreamtime" (1982) followed and is a refinement of ideas germinated on the first two records. It uses a theme of dream imagery, exploring and merging distinctions between electronics, new jazz, and world music, and features work with Moran, Moss, and Macchia, as well as master drummer Royal Hartigan.

Moving to compact disc as one of the first indies to do so, MW Gilbert released "The Light in the Clouds" (1987), and "Point of Views" (1988). A collaboration with master percussionist Tony Vacca, bassist Salvatore Macchia, and synthesist Roy Finch, “The Light in the Clouds" brings together African, Jewish, Christian, and Shinto music traditions and melds them with crystal clear sounds and rhythms. "Point of Views" is a solo recording realized entirely in his (then new) MIDI/computer-based studio, weaving elements of jazz, world, and electronic into "an ethereal and beautiful blend!" "Point of Views" received 4 stars in Downbeat Magazine. It successfully creates the sound of an ensemble yet is a purely solo work, with only percussion by Tony Vacca on one track. MW Gilbert signed a recording contract with Penta Disc Recordings (WEA) for releases in Canada of music from this repertoire.

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“One of the best albums of pure musical bliss I have heard in a while is I Can See From Here by Michael William Gilbert. It is a breath of fresh air in today's musical landscape too often cluttered with the average. I Can See From Here gives new life to styles of music rarely, if ever, heard on modern radio. The songs are expertly crafted, and the flow of the album definitely had me wanting more at its finale. A very well timed release, potentially worthy of a 2011 Grammy nomination. - Cashbox

“If the NPR radio show, Hearts of Space, were hipper and less ambient, it would fall over itself playing Michael William Gilbert's I Can See From Here…Gilbert approaches his task multi-focally, generating first a sonic-rhythmic landscape over which to spread his sound colors: everything from electric piano and Fender jazz bass, to vibraphone and human voices. The mood of the recording is one of perpetual motion. There is nothing ambient about this music, however. It is kinetic, even hyper-kinetic, always moving. Where ambient music can serve as a background distraction, Gilbert's music demands input of the listener, revealing something new and novel with every spin…Gilbert has created his own sound universe on I Can See From Here, a stylistic mash-up that reveals musical secrets like the fog burning off of a summer's day.” - All About Jazz

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