Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music

Michael Gilbert

Hampshire College Professor Michael Gilbert
Michael Gilbert
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music
Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies

"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 pan-cultural 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 from Hampshire College, focusing on music. 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 Amherst 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" had the intent of humanizing electronic music, with prominent use of wooden flutes, percussion, and voice to complement the synthesized textures. "The Call" (1980), his second LP, grew out of a desire to set jazz-influenced solo parts against a background of drone, percussion, and ambient soundscape, while evoking aspects of Eastern music. "The Call" features collaborations with multi-­wind and reed player Tim Moran, avant­ garde percussionist/vocalist David Moss, and bassist Salvatore Macchia. The LP, "In the Dreamtime" (1982), followed on the Palace of Lights label, and 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.

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 (another Hampshire alum), "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, weaving elements of jazz, world, electronic, and new music into "an ethereal and beautiful blend!" "Point of Views" received 4 stars in Downbeat Magazine, and has a collaboration with Tony Vacca on one track. Around this time MW Gilbert signed a recording contract with Penta Disc Recordings (WEA) for releases in Canada of music from this repertoire, and new compositions.

After Gilbert took a long break from recording, he followed with two new CD projects: "Other Voices" (2000) featured solo works and works with contributions from Tony Vacca and Roy Finch. 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 (Black Kangaroo, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Johnny Winter).

MW Gilbert's first three LP recordings, "Moving Pictures," "The Call," and "In the Dreamtime" were remastered and re­-released on CD, making his complete catalog available again, on disc and digital streaming.

His most recent CD, 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.

He has just finished recording a new album with contributions from Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson), Mark Walker (Oregon, Lyle Mays), and players from the Sofia, Bulgaria symphony.

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 choreographers Susan Waltner, Valerie Feit, Jan Wodynski, and Paula Josa­-Jones.

When not composing, Michael William Gilbert has been serving as the adviser for technology initiatives for University of Massachusetts Amherst Information Technology, where he has been 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 University of Massachusetts Amherst community. He retired from his position there in 2017 after almost 30 years to pursue music fully.


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