"I find much contemporary and electronic music suffers from a coldness or soullessness; as a result, I have tried to make mine a more human music, a fusion of synthesized, instrumental, and natural sounds. When composing, I electronically orchestrate each piece into a soundscape. The music is not just a simple mixture, but a genuine synthesis of pancultural musical styles. Above all, I want to make my music sing!" MW Gilbert
Michael William Gilbert grew up in Connecticut and Brussels, Belgium. While living in Europe he first encountered the music of Varese and Pierre Henry, as well as the 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 working there as a teacher and designer of custom synthesis systems. He studied and graduated with a degree in music from Hampshire College. Shortly thereafter he became the technical director of the electronic music studios at Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. He has taught electronic music composition at the University of Massachusetts and Holyoke Community College.
MW Gilbert has been composing and recording actively since the 1970's. In 1978 he released his first LP recording, "Moving Pictures", on the GIBEX label. "Moving Pictures" is a big step towards humanizing electronic music, with prominent use of wooden flutes, percussion, and voice to complement the synthesized textures of the compositions. "The Call" (1980), his second LP, is a more mature realization of that goal. The album concept grew out of a desire to set jazz influenced solo parts against a background of drone, percussion, and soundscape evoking aspects of Eastern music. "The Call" marks MW Gilbert's first collaboration with multiwind and reed player Tim Moran, avantgarde percussionist/vocalist David Moss, and bassist Salvatore Macchia. The LP, "In the Dreamtime" (1982), followed on the Palace of Lights label, and is a clear refinement of work begun on the first two records. This album uses the theme of dream imagery, exploring and merging the distinctions between electronics, new jazz, and world music, and also features collaborations with Moran, Moss, and Macchia, and additional guest players.
Two early releases on compact disc followed, "Light in the Clouds" (1987) and "Point of Views" (1988). A collaboration with master percussionist Tony Vacca, acoustic bassist Salvatore Macchia, and synthesist Roy Finch, "The Light in the Clouds" brings together African, Jewish, Christian, and Shinto musical traditions and melds them with crystal clear sounds and rhythms."Point of Views" is a stunning solo recording realized entirely within his MIDI (then new) based studio, weaving elements of jazz, world, electronic and new music into "an ethereal and beautiful blend!" "Point of Views" received 4 stars in Downbeat Magazine; it successfully creates the sound of an ensemble of players yet is a purely solo work, with a collaboration 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, and new compositions.
After a long break from recording, two new CD projects were released. "Other Voices" (2000), featured both previously unreleased works with contributions from Tony Vacca and Roy Finch, and more recent solo compositions. Following a long period of composition, MW Gilbert released "I Can See from Here" (2010), a complex weave of jazz, folk, electronic soundscape, world music, and electroacoustic ambience. It features a collaboration with guitarist and friend Peter Kaukonen, San Francisco Bay Area guitarist, who has played, toured, and recorded with Black Kangaroo, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Johnny Winter.
MW Gilbert's first three LP recordings, "Moving Pictures", "The Call", and "In the Dreamtime" were remastered and rereleased on CD, making his complete catalog available again, on both disc and digital distribution channels.
Currently he is releasing a new CD of works composed with the aim of creating music for possible live performance. "Secret Stories" (2015) is his most complex work to date, encompassing many faces of electronic music old and new, jazz, contemporary classical, and influences from multicultural folk music and instrumentation.
MW Gilbert's music has been played in concerts and festivals in North America and Europe and has been used by choreographers in conjunction with modern dance works, including Susan Waltner, Valerie Feit, Jan Wodynski, and Paula JosaJones. He has also contributed music to filmmaker Peter Hobbs, and to the score of "The Nightingale Princess", an independent film by Chris Dreisbach, Owen GranichYoung, and Daniel Gilbert.
When not composing, Michael William Gilbert is currently the Adviser for Technology Initiatives and Services for University of Massachusetts Amherst Information Technology, where he is engaged in research investigating internet media technologies, streaming protocols, multimedia, presentation, virtual teaching modalities, strategic planning, and supporting the provision of internet and technology services to the campus and UMass Amherst community.