"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!"
Michael William Gilbert grew up in Connecticut and Brussels, Belgium. It was while living in Europe that 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, where he later worked as a teacher and designer of custom synthesis systems. He studied at and then graduated with a degree in music from Hampshire College and shortly thereafter became the technical director of electronic music at Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. He has taught electronic music at the University of Massachusetts and at Holyoke Community College.
Gilbert has been composing and recording actively since the 1970's. In 1978 he released his first recording, "Moving Pictures", on the GIBEX label. "Moving Pictures" takes a step towards humanizing electronic music with prominent use of wooden flutes, percussion, and voice to complement the synthesized textures of the compositions. "The Call", Gilbert's second album, is a mature realization off his goal to create a more human music. It grew out of the desire to set new jazz influenced solo parts against a background of drone, percussion, and environment evocative of Eastern music. "The Call" marked Gilbert's first collaboration with multi-wind and reed player Tim Moran, avant-garde percussionist/vocalist David Moss, and bassist Salvatore Macchia. "In the Dreamtime", on the Palace of Lights label, is a 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.
Two releases on compact disc followed, "Light in the Clouds" and "Point of Views", both bridging the gap between diverse world musics. 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 into one music. "Point of Views" is a stunning solo recording realized within a MIDI 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. Gilbert signed a recording contract with PENTA DISC Recordings in Canada (dist. by WEA) for release of music from this repertoire as well as additional new compositions. Gilbert's music has been played in concerts and festivals in North America and abroad and has been used by choreographers in conjunction with modern dance works. Among these choreographers are Susan Waltner, Valerie Feit, Jan Wodynski, and Paula Josa-Jones. Gilbert has also scored a film by independent filmmaker Peter Hobbs, and worked on music for the score of "The Nightingale Princess", a film by Chris Dreisbach, Owen Granich-Young, and Daniel Gilbert.
His following CD, "Other Voices", featured both older unreleased works with contributions by Tony Vacca and Roy Finch, and more recent solo compositions. At the same time, his first three recordings, "Moving Pictures", "The Call", and "In the Dreamtime" have been remastered and recently re-released on CD as well as through iTunes and other digital distribution channels.
He has just finished recording a new CD, “I Can See from Here”, a stunning mix of jazz, folk, electronic soundscape, world music, and electro-acoustic ambience. It features a collaboration piece with guest guitarist Peter Kaukonen, San Francisco Bay Area guitarist, who has played, toured, and recorded with Black Kangaroo, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Johnny Winter.
When he is not composing, Michael William Gilbert is currently the Adviser for Technology Initiatives and Services for the Office of Information Technologies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he is engaged in research investigating internet media technologies, streaming protocols, multimedia, presentation, virtual teaching modalities, and supporting the Office of Information Technologies' provision of Internet and technology services to the campus and UMass community.