RIP Jon Gibson (1940-2020): Relative Calm

Receiving this album for review the fact is I actually shed a tear when, upon opening my mail, I found the cover of this album cause my emotions to jump to regions of nostalgic memories deeply treasured.

Another fact is that, due to COVID 19, the virtual stoppage of all live concerts, and shifts in my scheduling priorities I had stopped following the career of Mr. Gibson (1940-2020) for the last few years and I wasn’t even aware that this disc had been released. I had heard that he had died in October, 2020. Gibson is a musician I first encountered, as most people had, via his omnipresence at concerts of the Philip Glass Ensemble where he was a founding member. Gibson’s performances of the saxophone solo in Glass’ “Facades”, which I first heard in 1980, are forever etched in my memory. And I caught pretty much every concert they did in or near Chicago from 1980 to perhaps 2000. So that little personal history gives you some idea as to why seeing this album was a “gut punch” of emotion to me.


I lifted this discography of Gibson’s releases from and it does not include his work the Philip Glass Ensemble in which he was a member since 1968. It is probably not definitive but it provides some perspective on Gibson’s range of repertoire and his musical affiliations.

  • Visitations 4 versions Chatham Square Productions 1973
  • Two Solo Pieces 5 versions Chatham Square Productions1977
  • In Good Company 4 versions Point Music1992
  • S..E.M. Ensemble – Petr Kotik / Jon Gibson / David Behrman / Ben Neill – Virtuosity With Purpose. (CD, Album)Ear-Rational Records ECD 10341992
  • Criss X Cross ‎(CD, Album). Tzadik TZ 80202006
  • Phill Niblock / Jon Gibson – Darmstadt Essential Repertoire 12/4/2009 ‎(5xFile, MP3, 256)ISSUE Project Roomnone 2009
  • The Dance ‎(CD, Album) Orange Mountain Music 70072013
  • Relative Calm ‎(CD, Album)New World Records 80783-22016
  • Jon Gibson’s Visitations Otoroku2017
  • Violet Fire – An Opera About Nikola Tesla ‎(2xCD, Album) Orange Mountain Music70182019
  • Songs & Melodies, 1973-1977 ‎(2xLP, Album) Superior ViaductSV1732020
  • David Behrman with Jon Gibson & Werner Durand -Viewfinder / Hide & Seek ‎(LP, Album, Ltd)Black Truffle BT08220211

Gibson’s brand of minimalism resembles Glass’ at times but Gibson’s eclecticism, his mix of styles bear the fingerprints of a style which will be easily recognized by listeners familiar with some of his previous albums.

This is an album’s worth of music written for a performance piece with choreography by the wonderful Lucinda Childs (who choreographed Philip Glass’ “Einstein on the Beach” and commissioned Gibson in 1981 for this piece). Relative Calm (1981) is in four sections (or movements) each with its own character.


1. Relative Calm (Rise) (1981)
Composed By, Wind, Keyboards, Autoharp, Sounds [Field Recording] – Jon Gibson
Keyboards – Joseph Kubera
Percussion – David Van Tieghem

2. Q-Music (Race) (1981)
Composed By, Keyboards – Jon Gibson
Keyboards – Joseph Kubera

3. Extensions RC (Reach) (1981)
Sopranino Saxophone, Composed By – Jon Gibson

4. Return (Return) (1981)
Keyboards – Joseph Kubera
Percussion – David Van Tieghem
Saxophone, Composed By – Jon Gibson

Gibson’s fondness for jazz is evident here but the dominant style is the composer’s brand of minimalism. Relative Calm was commissioned and choreographed by Lucinda Childs with decor by Robert Wilson, it received its world premiere by the Lucinda Childs Dance Company at Théatre National de Strasbourg in
Strasbourg, France on November 26, 1981. It’s wonderful and it is a blessing to have this recording available.

This was released in 2016 on New World Records and is now available for streaming on Bandcamp. The excellent liner notes are by Kyle Gann and Dean Suzuki tell you pretty much all you need to know and the album sounds great. Thanks, Mr. Gibson, RIP.


Pounding on History: Joseph Bertolozzi Literally Plays the Eiffel Tower


I recall a video from the 90s featuring percussionist David van Tieghem manically going down a street in Manhattan playing pretty much every object in his reach (fire plugs, phone booths, etc.) and that serves to create my mindset for the understanding the present recording.  Now this recording is more site specific and all music is site specific in the sense that each performance is unique by virtue of the acoustics, the time/day of the performance, the audience, etc. but this recording is pretty unique.  I mean, this band can’t travel.

Following in the spirit of R. Murray Schaefer’s huge environmental concepts, Pauline Oliveros’s deep listening ideas and even inspiration from David van Tieghem and perhaps the wild energy of Han Benink as well this is album is actually a sort of sequel to a previous effort, 2009’s Bridge Music (written for/on the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge).  I have not heard the former album but the compositional techniques appear to have been similar in both the former and present album.  He explores the sounds he can make with various mallets and samples them into a computer for later use.


What prevents this Tower Music from becoming ordinary is the extraordinary inventiveness of his Bertolozzi‘s compositions.  This is not just a catalog of “where I’ve banged the tower” but rather a loving sound portrait derived from the sonic possibilities of a major architectural landmark making creative use of the famed tower’s utterances unleashed by the composer/performer’s experiments.  Having found and extracted a huge catalog of tuned and untuned sounds from months of experimentation and recording the composer has assembled a very interesting set of pieces that hold the attention well.

There are ten tracks in total, the last being an audio tour of the Eiffel Tower (without pounding).  The musical tracks run from 49 seconds to about 11 minutes and all are given fanciful titles sometimes related to the area being played.

In addition to being a set of compositions it is also a sort of sonic portrait unique as DNA to the structure from which it has been extracted and upon which it is played.  One can envision an ongoing project of more such sonic portraits.  It works on both these levels. There are plans for live performances in the works at the time of this recording’s publication..

Leave it to Innova in their ongoing search for the mavericks.  They have found one here. This appears to be a labor of love from it’s conception to it’s recording and presentation here including the package design and liner notes.  And now who knows what other structures are laying about with sonic possibilities yet to be heard?