Peter Gilbert: Burned Into the Orange

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Composer Peter Gilbert releases his second full length album on New Focus, Burned Into the Orange, a follow up to his 2008 release The Bold Arch of Undreamt Bridges. Featuring performances by the Arditti Quartet, Camilla Hoitenga, Magdalena Meitzner, Jeremias Schwarzer, Richard White, Michael Veit, Emanuele Arciuli, and the Iridium Quartet, Gilbert's music explores rich, sensual ensemble textures that highlight the uniqueness of individual timbres and the ephemerality of the crystalline moments that contain them.


Composer Peter Gilbert fills Burned Into the Orange with a musical energy that sometimes patiently envelopes its listeners in phosphorescent harmonies and at other times pulls them through an intense timbral tunnel. Gilbert writes: “My music often aspires to create a sonic architecture that helps us lose our sense of time completely and allows us to partake in a kind of more direct aural experience in search of passageways to transcendence.”

The album opens with the voice opens wide to forget that which you are singing, a bracing sting from the Arditti Quartet as violin double-stops are pulling themselves apart while a stratospheric chorale gleams above. But the cutting edge of this sonic beam soon relaxes into a series of resonant clouds: vibrating, glistening, then subsiding into the next hovering tone-formation. The title comes from Gilbert’s adaptation of one of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus which suggests that in forgetting what we know of song (forgetting we are even singing) we are opened to becoming one with music—a breath of the “Everything”. In this light, the drawn-out processes of sound sculpting (in which the Arditti Quartet’s renowned virtuosity is on display as they bring high relief to the microscopic details of vibrato and intonation) seems to incarnate this “different breath”, this essence of being.

Upon the Awakening features closely recorded piano in what feels like a pre-echo of the album’s final piece. After the Arditti Quartet’s long, burrowing crescendos, this piece is a welcome exhalation. The cathartic ringing of the chords quickly takes on a kind of post-reality shimmering that suffuses the calming chorale in luminescence.

If the voice opens wide... manifests the sound of sound as vibration and Upon the Awakening manifests it as the hazy glow of reverberation, then Burned Into the Orange turns the sound of sound into gentle pulsation. The magic of the Iridium Quartet’s performance is that the saxophones seem to bend and melt into one another as the pulses’ tempos push and pull and overlap into an undulating series of bending layers and gently beating multiphonics.

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Passage: Orange into Silver, a brief electronic intermezzo, carries the listener away from the warmth of the oranges inspired by the New Mexican landscape into a more penetrating metallic silver—a kind of astral wind that ultimately settles into another of the Rilke-inspired clouds of breath.

Following the long hold of Passage, the explosive attack that starts the flute-percussion duo Channeling the Waters is a shock to the system. More than anything else on the album, this piece embodies a world of contrasts as it moves crisply and palindromically through a series of short ritualistic scenes. Camilla Hoitenga and Magdalena Meitzner execute brilliantly a series of timbral intersections in which the flute and percussion function as one fluid body (quite literally when pouring water makes an appearance). Most stunning are the sections when the sensitive flute playing of Hoitenga (known for her close work with Saariaho) merges with Meitzner’s brilliantly skilled bowing of a flexatone.

The gripping end of Channeling the Waters is followed by another long exhalation, this time into a Rilke-cloud of electronics that creates a bed for the hyper-expressive cries from Jeremias Schwarzer’s basset recorder on the palm of your hand touches my body. At times the recorder just barely emerges from the supple electronic texture, expressively coloring the glow, while at other times multiphonics pour out entrancing pathos.

In By the Lonely Traveller’s Call, the wildly evocative stormings of Richard White’s inspired live performance are timbrally shaped by an amplified mute, giving the solo tuba an otherworldly sound in keeping with Walter de la Mare’s haunting poem The Listeners that gives the piece its title. The sung multiphonics in the second half of the piece become more and more ghostly until the chilling end on an impossibly low pedal B.

In Die Reflexionen des Schattens the sound of the shadows comes to life in rippling echoes whose spacings are constantly in flux creating a unique hall of mirrors for Michael Veit’s solo cello. After the vigorous confidence of White’s tuba, one is struck by the fragility of the cello sound often at the edge of disintegration. All of the six sections cadence in a series of pizzicato G’s except for the very last which flutters away in a magical world of airy harmonics.

On an album full of saturated sound spaces, the final track Soon as the Sun Forsook the Eastern Main begins with a startlingly unvarnished solo performance by Italian pianist Emanuele Arciuli. It shortly arrives on a hanging harmony he lets ring for longer and longer until it finally becomes clear that the piano strings’ resonance is transforming into something else. Resonances evolve through the piece into an increasingly independent chorus of distant voices. This striking metamorphosis could be a metaphor for the entire album. Gilbert often seems to be composing out a fantastical journey through a sonogram sprung to life in which microscopic oscillations are magnified into gestures and phrases. The liner notes refer to this phenomenon as “the sound of sound becoming sound.”

– Peter Gilbert

Tracks 1, 3, 5 recorded in Keller Hall (Albuquerque, USA), production by Karola Obermüller

Track 6 recorded live at Harvard University (Cambridge, USA), live engineering by Hans Tutschku

Track 7 recorded live in Keller Hall, live engineering by Manny Rettinger

Track 9 piano recorded in Keller Hall, live engineering by Manny Rettinger

Engineering and Mastering: Peter Gilbert

Arditti Quartet:

Iridium Quartet:

Camilla Hoitenga:

Magdalena Meitzner:

Jeremias Schwarzer:

Richard White:

Michael Veit:

Emanuele Arciuli:

Peter Gilbert

Described as “ethereal, ambient, and benignly haunting like a morning fog on the ocean”, Peter Gilbert’s acoustic and electronic music has taken on many forms in projects for film and theater, museum installations and pieces for the concert hall. In his words, he attempts to “become enveloped in a musical experience, disappearing into sound.”

Gilbert has held artist residencies with numerous institutions in Europe and the US including ZKM | Institut für Akustik und Musik, Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany), and the Aaron Copland House and festivals such as the Tage Aktueller Musik, Nürnberg (Germany) and the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival. Accolades and commissions have come from the Barlow Foundation, New Music USA, the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, the Russolo Foundation, the Look & Listen Festival, the Third Practice Festival, the Washington International Composers Competition, and the Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges.

Gilbert had composition studies with Julian Anderson, Margaret Brouwer, Chaya Czernowin, Mario Davidovsky, Joshua Fineberg, Lee Hyla, Helmut Lachenmann, Magnus Lindberg, Bernard Rands, Hans Tutschku, and David Vayo. He taught at Harvard University, Wellesley College, and the Cleveland Institute of Music, and was co-founder of the Young Composers Program at CIM and its Co-Director from 2003-2010. In 2010, he moved to Albuquerque where he is Associate Professor of Composition at the University of New Mexico. Gilbert's work as a composer and producer can be heard on New Focus Recordings, Innova, GM Recordings, Sono Luminus, Affetto, and Centaur, as well as at




No one could accuse New Focus co-founder Gilbert of using the label to promote his own music - this is only his second release and the last was over a decade ago. But his dazzling command of various forces, from string quartets (both the Arditti and the Iridium are featured) to electronics to solo tuba, makes me hope we don't have to wait that long for more. Each piece grabs the attention like a great storyteller, with Channeling The Waters for flute and percussion (Camilla Hoitenga and Magdalena Meitzner, respectively) being emblematic. Opening with a heavy metal fanfare, it leads you on a labyrinthine journey that never ceases to fascinate, which could be said of the album as a whole. Join the adventure.

— Jeremy Shatan, 6.13.2021


Take Effect

The always impressive composer Peter Gilbert returns with a follow up to his 2008 release, The Bold Arch of Undreamt Bridges, and this time he’s got performances from the Arditti Quartet, Jeremias Schwarzer, Michael Velt and many others on the rich, textured and highly unpredictable 9 tracks.

“the voice opens wide to forget that which you are singing” starts the listen with atmospheric and often tense violins from Irvine Arditti and Ashot Sarkissjan, as Ralf Ehlers contributes strategic viola alongside quivering cello from Lucas Fels.

Elsewhere, the moody brass of the title track benefits from 4 saxophones as Paul Nolen’s soprano, Marcos Colon’s alto, Paul Forsyth’s tenor and Eric Lau’s baritone work together amid a warm and cinematic quality.

Of the shorter tracks, “Passage: Orange into Silver” channels a sci-fi feeling with mystery entering a darker approach thanks to the electronic exploration, while “Channeling the Waters” recruits a jarring delivery of flutes from Camilla Hoitenga and lively percussion from Magdalena Meitzner as they explore timbral innovation.

Near the end, “By The Lonely Traveller’s Call” puts Richard White’s tuba skills on display where the instrument is manipulated in unconventional ways, and “Soon as the Sun Forsook the Eastern Main” exits the listen with Emanuele Arciuli holding down piano as electronic media enters the dreamy, abstract finish.

Known for his artistic presence in the areas of acoustic and electronic sounds, Gilbert again provides a fascinating listening experience where his inestimable vision bridges the gap between organic and ambient instrumentation in ways that few others would dare to venture.

— Tom Haugen, 5.20.2021

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