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



The WholeNote

Composer Peter Gilbert’s second full-length album – Burned into the Orange – is a collection of chamber works that explore rich and sensuous textures performed by the Arditti Quartet, Camilla Hoitenga, Magdalena Meitzner, Jeremias Schwarzer, Richard White, Michael Veit, Emanuele Arciuli and the Iridium Quartet.

The seemingly ever-rising pulsation of the voice opens wide to forget that which you are singing produces an ephemeral hypnosis. The title track, scored for saxophone quartet, evokes sonic tendrils creeping among the sinuousness of a liquid cathedral. The almost violent gestures of Channelling the Waters produces a musical energy that tunnels through unknown timbral pathways. A piece titled By the Lonely Traveller’s Call, for tuba and amplified mute, transduces extreme guttural bellows into resonant sonic clouds. The lingering harmonic canopies of Soon as the Sun Forsook the Eastern Main evaporate monumental piano sonorities into monoliths of aural brilliance.

This album is saturated with aural enchantment – each piece seems to be on a journey from unaltered impetus to transcendent harmoniousness. Burned into the Orange will surely burn into memory for those who listen.

— Adam Scime, 9.21.2021



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


Sequenza 21

This is composer Peter Gilbert’s second recording for New Focus; the first was back in 2008, The Bold Arch of Undreamt Bridges. He is Associate Professor of Music at University of New Mexico, and has a long artistic pedigree filled with prestigious residencies, performances, and awards. There is a visceral character in Gilbert’s music that distinguishes it, and in his recent music it appears that geography plays as much of a role as any of the aforementioned experiences. The searing heat of the summer sun in the Southwest, the beauty of its flora and fauna, and the changes of light against mountain streams are all analogous to the diverse array of instrumental colors that Gilbert brings to bear.

A case in point is Intermezzo: Orange into Silver, which Gilbert synesthetically describes as depicting the oranges inspired by the New Mexico landscape moving to a metallic silver, “…a kind of astral wind that ultimately settles into another of the Rilke-inspired clouds of breath.” A plethora of timbres are contained within these broad strokes, belying the piece’s three-minute duration with a varied splendor of synthetic sounds. Elsewhere the approach is more distilled. Arditti String Quartet plays deconstructed double stops with furious intensity on The Voice Opens Wide to Forget That Which You Are Singing. A live recording by basset recorder player Jeremias Schwarzer with electronics by Gilbert, The Palm of Your Hand Touches My Body is the most extended piece on the album and also its most engaging, challenging the listener to locate whether particular sounds emanate from the recorder or the electronics throughout: a satisfying game of musical hide and seek. Wave Dash, Camilla Hoetenga, flute and Magdalena Meitzner, percussion, perform Channeling the Waters, which seems to encompass more whitecaps than burbling brooks.

Standout Soon as the Sun Forsook the Eastern Main features the pianist Emmanuele Arculi in a close-miked series of corruscating arpeggios, which is succeeded by electronic interpolations of synthetic harmonic series and polytonal verticals. Thunderous bass notes are set against a shimmering upper register electronic drone, all added to the mix of verticals. Another layer, of sampled vocalize, moves the piece still further toward the ethereal. One gets a foreshadowing of the electronics, at least its approach, in Meditation upon the Awakening of the Spirit, placed earlier on the disc. Upon the Awakening, another piece for electronics and live performers, in this case the Iridium Quartet (who are saxophonists) also explores spectral series, including detuned upper partials, and disjunct yet lyrical melodic material. By the Lonely Traveller’s Call for tuba with amplified mute supplies a unique palette of sounds and engaging formal design. Gilbert is a consummate craftsman with an unerring ear for textures, both electronic and acoustic. Recommended.

— Christian Carey, 12.07.2021



When Jimi Hendrix hit the scene, or rather crashed down unanticipated between whatever fabricated scenes people took for actual, his largest problem was that he didn’t fit. The prescribed categories suited neither him nor his music. The same problem could befall Peter Gilbert, that is if new music were taken nearly as seriously by a quarter of as many people as glommed onto the Hendrix phenomenon. Gilbert, who cofounded the New Focus label and whose sophomore full-length this is, composes between the historical and timbral cracks, disarmingly but never uncontrollably adrift in the sea of sounds he’s made, or used, or willed others to make as they contort, with deceptive ease, in service of a malleable but purposeful vision.

The titular piece, Burned into the Orange, says everything about Gilbert’s music that really needs to be said. It’s a quartet, but is it Romantic Impressionism or Impressionist Romanticism? It is, in essence, an elastic moment, an instant as vehicle, frozen performative solidarity caught, writhing and fluid, between the worlds composers have shunned consciously at least since first morphed into second practice in 1600. Listen to that first pitch, or is it a complex? What follows doesn’t so much bloom as vibrate its way into existence, oscillating and gently beating against the histories that can’t contain it as artistic and harmonic preconceptions vanish. For liner notes, we get:

“In the New Mexican landscape, the innumerable hues of color in the earth are exposed on the sides of mountains, tracing beautiful lines on top of lines on top of lines of orange and auburn and red curving unpredictably through rocky horizontal spaces which, as distance increases, blur together in an impressionistic refraction of warm light that echoes the burning skyscapes of the southwestern sunsets.”

There it is, natural blending as quietly and joyously complete as the earth-and-skyscape Gilbert paints in elucidation. Don’t expect the eventual trills to provide any sort of climax; it’s illusory. Even when a more superficially conventional gesture of introduction occurs, as with Soon as the Sun Forsook the Eastern Main, the piano’s disillusion into silence is mirrored and even reversed by a gorgeous electronic groundswell, a mountain in repose. Fashioned of piano stuff, it rises and interacts with Emanuele Arciuli’s expert pianism as ghostly voices eventually indicate and widen historical and stylistic chasms. This must be stunning to hear in live performance!

Every piece inhabits a different universe, but if they share a single trait, it is the repeated and continuous suspension of motion. Even the first two pieces, a quartet virtuosically performed by the Arditti Quartet and an electronic work, seem to fight against but finally succumb to staticity. the voice opens wide to forget that which you are singing is in constant conflict with its pitch, timbral, and rhythmic boundaries, swimming and swirling through post-Penderecki and neo-Xenakis territory while never remaining in either long enough for dogmatic servility. Upon the Awakening simmers with curving light, also refusing to stay as still as its sloping sustains would dictate. The mind-stomping thrum and thrash of Channeling the Waters is as close as Gilbert comes to Hendrix, and it doesn’t last long as Wave Dash navigates its often choppy, occasionally tranquil but never murky waters. All playing is similarly excellent, as it should be, with compositions of this magnitude and originality. Long may Gilbert’s music inhabit the place just outside of history’s influence!

— Marc Medwin, 1.09.2022



There is only one piece by Peter Gilbert on the Fanfare Archive, considered by two reviewers: his The Ringing of Golden Balconies (Fanfare 34:3), a piece that takes Gabrieli’s Sacrae Symphoniae as a starting point. Hence it’s good to have a whole disc of music by this composer (his second full disc on New Focus Recordings, and the first to come my way). Since 2010, Gilbert has been an associate professor of composition at the University of New Mexico. The reference to the earlier reviews is apt, as it happens. There, the music of Gabrieli was subsumed into washes of sound informed by the waters of Venice, and also of the continuum of time post-composition. The works here concentrate on timbre: “... perhaps hearing timbre is like staring into a Heraclitian fire,” says the composer, in that “we never live the same sound twice.” Music, and the sounds that comprise it, are transitory, but “in that brief life, a thousand faces appear in the sound’s flames, one passing into another passing into another.” Focusing on this idea, Gilbert wants us to hear a “melody of waves as they wash against one another, to witness the resonance of a chord transforming into new life.” One can certainly hear many of these precepts in the voice opens wide to forget that which you are singing (2019, its title inspired by Rilke). One could not imagine finer interpreters than the members of the Arditti Quartet, and indeed they deliver a performance of stunning force and originality. One hears the sounds shift, slip, and slide. Rilke’s text references “the lyre’s strings,” presumably a further inspiration for this piece. A “meditation upon the awakening of the spirit to love and compassion,” Upon the Awakening (2017–21) is beautifully scored for electronics. Not that one would know it from the documentation, while the website claims it is for electronics and saxophone quartet (the saxophones are actually the next piece). A piece that calls for compassion for the pain of others, Upon the Awakening morphs smoothly into the shifting colors of Burned into the Orange (2016, from which title the disc takes its name). Here, Gilbert is inspired by the multitude of earth hues of the New Mexico landscape that trace themselves in lines (“on top of lines on top of lines”). Certainly, the feeling of warmth is most clear; the piece is relatively short, though, and I do wonder if it is not cut off in its prime. Another piece of electronica, Passage: Orange into Silver (2017) is a somewhat whispered, Impressionistic work with silvery overtones; one clearly hears the twistings and turnings of the layers. It is quite a shift to the significantly harsher, ritualistic sounds of Channeling the Waters (2019) for flutes and percussion (performed by Camilla Hortenga, flute, and Magdalena Meitzner, percussion, together known as Wave Dash). The piece softens, though, to far more fragile areas. An accompanying poem seems to explain the trajectory from images and bridges of connectedness through to the disappearance of the bridge, leaving only echoes. The performance is superb, including the control of multiphonics on the flute. It is Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass that inspired the palm of your hand touches my body (2006), specifically “As Adam early in the morning….” Scored for basset recorder and electronics, this is a most elusive piece which seems almost to revolve slowly as we experience it. A real example of less is more, Gilbert’s delicate world (once more the term “silvery” springs to mind) seems to hold multiple secrets. One hears what appears to be much more than a tuba in By the Lonely Traveller’s Call (2011), this time accompanied by a tract from Walter de la Mare’s The Listeners adapted by the composer. With the help of an “amplified mute,” the tuba almost seems to speak, its timbral variety increased exponentially by the added mute. All credit is due to Richard White for his eloquence as well as his adaptability. It’s a fine piece and a fine addition to the tuba’s repertoire. Let’s hope other tuba players take this one up: It makes quite an impression. Another text adapted by the composer, this time Phillis Wheatley’s A Hymn to the Evening, forms the launching point for his Die Reflexionen des Schattens (2020) for cello (Michael Veit) plus live electronics. This is a virtuoso performance from Veit, who seems perfectly at home in this taxing world. The cello is used both expressively (in a quasi-melodic sense) and percussively, creating a vast sound-space in tandem with the live electronics. The arrival of relatively tonal sonorities at the launch of Soon as the Sun Forsook the Eastern Main (2012) comes as a bit of a surprise, almost as if this last piece is annexed off from the rest of the program, although it finds its way into more ambient fields before disappearing into the void. There is no explanatory text to his piece at all, but its valedictory nature seems perfectly judged in the context of the disc. This is a fascinating overview of works by Peter Gilbert, presented in performances of the utmost expertise.

— Colin Clarke, 1.09.2022

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