I have always been fascinated by the act of listening. It
was my discovery of electronic music in the early 1970s that
encouraged me to listen to the sounds of the surrounding environment. The recording technologies that spurred
the initial development of this field gave us the ability to
create a container for sounds that were not conventionally thought
of as musical.A sonic snapshot of life experience could be stored
for considered listening in another time and place. I began my
composing career with a reel-to-reel tape recorder and splicing
equipment. Soon after, a Buchla modular analogue synthesizer
provided a fabulous addition to my sound palette. The tape recorders,
however, were what really sparked the imagination of this young
classical pianist, enhancing my sensitivity to sound.
When I returned to composing in the mid-1990s, after nearly
twenty years leave, it was due to a fascination for the sounds
of my own Jewish culture. I imagined, and soon crafted, soundscape
compositions that captured my sense of that world. Some of these
form the core of my 1998 CD, 'Stories Heard and Retold'. I never
planned to return to the concert stage, but the immediacy and
excitement of spontaneous invention sparked my interest in an
unexpected way. I have remained interested in shaping recognizable
sounds and abstractions of those sounds, the approach of soundscape
composition, I became captivated by the relationship between
physical gesture and the shaping of sound.
I began to work on a more embodied approach to performance than
characterized the field in the past. Fast computer processors,
sensor technologies, and Max/MSP made this possible.
My live performance work has followed two parallel paths:
constructing live performance instruments for my own professional
level concertizing, and creating accessible sound sculptures
that can be performed by anybody.
My interest in live, often solo performance, led me to build
the multi-sensor 'eBoard' for which I designed numerous interfaces
with Max/MSP. The goal was to create an interactive instrument
that is capable of making musical choices to which I could respond.
The eBoard was designed to shape, in a nuanced manner, the playback
of sound samples, some of them recorded in the moment, transform
the sounds of a home-built four stringed harp built onto the
eBoard's body, and perform physical models of acoustical instruments.
Recently, the focus of my live performance instruments has shifted
towards expanding the capabilities of acoustical instruments.
These presently include a traditional Jewish shofar (ram's horn),
and a Turkish Saz (long-necked stringed instrument), electronically
adapted with sensors similar to those used in the eBoard. It
has been a fabulous learning experience, and a terrific challenge
to integrate traditional instrumental technique with the functionality of electronics.
My interest in populist musical performance pointed my development
of a series of interactive sound sculptures, grouped together
under the title 'Sounds of a Community'. In this continously
unfolding sound installation, visitors shape sounds from Jewish
religious life by manipulating sculptures modeled upon traditional
Jewish ritual objects. This project brings together my love of
soundscapes and field recordings with my appreciation for sensor
technologies, and a desire to engage people who are unfamiliar
with electronic music. I am interested in harnessing new technologies
in ways that help people explore their identities and cultures
in a manner that keeps the electronics subtly present but not
My goal in all of these musical projects is, first and foremost,
to create music and to point to the musical qualities of our
world. I find that the technologies I draw upon can be humanizing
influences, offering flexible, musically responsive, and ever
fascinating ways to engage the imagination. My work encourages
people to cross boundaries between conventional and new musical
aesthetics, traditional cultures and modern life, and religious
and secular sensibilities. It is my belief that the creative
imagination can continue to spur new technological advances,
just as new technologies open new pathways that spark the creative
imagination. Electronic music, approached from a humanistic perspective,
can continually focus and cultivate our awareness of the inherent
musicality of the world we live in.
Some independent pages from Bob: Performances
~ Sound Installations
GLUCK ~ the 'Stories' CD insert
Music is an astonishing thing.
We all live, work and play in rich sound environments, be they
the woods of my Berkshires backyard, the streets of Manhattan,
or the sanctuaries and stairways of synagogues. The structuring
and presentation of sound results in what we call music. Music
has a magical quality. It can communicate ideas, feelings and
impulses beyond words. Music can help us remember moments in
our lives for which there are no words. It can help us structure
and express ideas that words can only begin to touch.
For me, it was natural that religious music, and especially
Jewish music could be a vehicle for the expression of the most
transcendent ideas and experiences. My earliest musical memories
are set in Jewish settings: listening to the rustling of prayerbook
pages while an old-time cantor sung in my Grandfather's synagogue;
hearing the juxtaposition (sequentially or simultaneously, I
don't remember) of opera and Yiddish songs in his living room.
My musical training took place within western classical tradition.
Unfortunately, the two worlds clashed; my music teachers questioned
the value of Jewish music, and my Jewish teachers taught that
Judaism and art were antithetical. I began to lose my connection
to Jewish musical culture.
I became capitvated by New Music and rock music. My own yearnings
were expressed in works such as Takemitsu's "Dorian Horizon"
and Stockhausen's "Hymnen," in Jimi Hendrix's electric
guitar, the music of John Cage, Stravinsky, Frank Zappa and King
Crimson. I found a new way to connect with a sense of divinity,
and through music, to evoke the mysterious and wondrous. I found
a new expressive voice in electronic music composition during
The writings of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan helped bridge my two
worlds and reshaped my life. Kaplan considered art and music
as central driving forces of Jewish civilization. He wrote: "The
art of a civilization is its individual interpretation of the
world in color, sound and image," and elsewhere, "We
can no more think of [Jewish] religion apart from [art and music]
than we can think of the soul or personality of any human being
without reference to his (sic) appearance, voice, acts and words."
Adding, "All the components of [Jewish] civilization, namely
language, literature, social norms, folkways and the arts, have
always entered into every texture of the Jewish religion,"
Kaplan concluded, "We should be interested in giving an
artistic form to every aspect of Jewish life." I entered
rabbinical college in the Reconstructionist movement, which Kaplan
founded, became a rabbi, and returned to composing in electronic
Through my compositions, I aim to bring together what I love
about Jewish culture with the aesthetics of contemporary music.
I imagine joining the musical sensibilities of Pierre Henry and
Edgard Varese with the resonances of the sounds, melodies, and
experiences of Jewish life. I picture a meeting place between
the great cantorial traditions, candid camera-like snapshots
of subtle moments of daily, including ritual, life and what I
have learned from the evolving new musical traditions. Charles
Ives and John Cage taught me that these can musically coexist
and even dialog in the same place and time. I feel ever enriched
and captivated by this union and consider myself privileged to
live in a world where such cross-pollination is possible, offering
a new Jewish music.
Bob Gluck 11/16/97
SOME COMMENTS FROM A SHOW
Over 150 people attended the March 24, 2001 showing of
Sounds of a Community, at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation,
in Woodstock, NY. Here are a few of the visitor comments, related
in a book of greetings and via email:
"It was especially fun to watch people playing the
instruments. Grown people were like kids again, experimenting
with something new, playing... and they were as excited and awed
as kids when discovering something new. I have a great picture
of _____ (an Islamic visitor) playing the eharvest. He looks
so joyous! I played the book, because there's just something
so holy about a book, and then a holy book, well... it was fun
and mysterious; I had to wonder what sounds would come from what
areas on the page. It was fun to repeat sounds, find them again...."
The installation is "a very interesting synthesis
of individual and group experience with prayer and the bridge
between religious and artistic impulses. Your audience are both
viewers and participants and this kind of interactivity is very
"What I like about it was that my davening [prayer]
movements were rewarded by increased ambient sound. Moving with
my eyes closed, as I sometimes do when I pray, I found that the
personal space that I try to create while swaying back and forth
was enhanced by the sounds coming from the speakers. Though part
of me recognized the prayers and words, I experienced the sounds
more as part of the environment. What I really like is the paradox
of how augmenting the sound around me actually helps me to find
the solopsistic space that I'm seeking."
"I began to find the movements that produced the sounds.
I felt myself cloaked in the voices of my own ancestors, and
held by the tradition in which they worshipped. I have never
experienced such a thing before."
"(eChant) allowed me to use familiar ritual movements
to escape from the large room into a personal sound space. Though
the actual physical gestures were more cognitively demanding
than the swaying of eShawl, I still thought that it worked very
"... [my Jewish partner] found the connections between
the ritual objects and the sounds to be very satisfying ..."
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