Harley Gaber – IN MEMORIAM 2010


“Perhaps the belief that consciousness permeates everything and transcends – by that I mean encompasses – the cyclic nature of living and dying, would allow us to accept the inevitable beginnings and endings of things as part of a meaningful continuity, not just a tragic aberration”.

These words by Harley Gaber, dated September 2010, resonate deeply following his recent suicide. Commissioned by the Dan J. Epstein Family Foundation, In Memoriam 2010 springs from the reworking of an earlier piece that “already had existed in two incarnations”: “Portrait And Dream”, subsequently transformed into “Portrait And Dream: In Memoriam Kenneth Gaburo”. Gaburo, a former teacher and friend of Gaber, constitutes a fundamental presence – via processed snippets of his own recordings – in the 63-minute piece. He’s in good company, for Gaber also uses fragments of Verdi, Beethoven, Feldman, Werner Durand, Paul Paccione, Philip Blackburn and himself to shape this arresting blend of morphing fluids and mind-bending frequencies. Ironically, the lone rhythmic device, a short hiccuping loop recurring in the composition’s second half, derives from a vocal fragment of Rothko Chapel. So much for the association of Feldman with quasi-infinite duration and timelessness.
A striking similitude connects several facets of this set with some of Roland Kayn’s excursions around the tortuous meanders of awareness, despite differing attitudes towards the creative process (Gaber meticulously specifying intentions and details as opposed to the German’s relinquishment of the typical traits of a “composer”). In particular, “In-formation”, the chapter that will leave drone-craving listeners with mouths agape, procures a nearly identical state of existential rewinding in rational oblivion. Sonic incidents keep occurring under the depths of these nebulous stratifications, the original concept being that of a devastating event for humanity – symbolized by the initial “Cataclysm And Threnody” – followed by a rebirth of life. Gaber, who was enduring a profound crisis and ended up blowing his savings on a second-hand car that exploded right after the purchase, had probably realized that when contingent events undermine one’s commitment to earthly persistence, it’s time to officially merge with the same vibrations that surround us all. The vital exhaustion he was tardily diagnosed with was nothing but the result of a scary quantity of data stored in a brain that generated amazing sounds, signified by a pair of penetrating eyes, part altruistic alien, part snooping toddler.

“Perhaps there is no gap between what we perceive to be outside and apart from us: we are part of the entire equation”.

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