Harley Gaber

I Saw My Mother Ascending Mount Fuji

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Harley Gaber completed I Saw My Mother Ascending Mount Fuji, a work for multi-track violin, processed alto flute, and tape, in 2009, but it substantially incorporates music written and recorded much earlier, including a piece for alto flute from 1968 and a violin solo from 1972. Gaber uses two iterations of the violin piece Michi, a spare, abstract, almost Feldman-esque work that incorporates extensive silences to create an atmosphere of starkness and desolation, and Chimyaku, a similarly minimal solo for alto flute. The essential fabric of the piece consists of the tape part, made up primarily of ambient natural sounds continuously undergirded with various wind sounds as a unifying element. Gaber's overlay of the tape part with the instrumental solos is haunting and eerily ominous. Although its subtly shifting textures are always in motion, the single-track, hour-long piece seems more like the trance-like evocation of a landscape -- physical or emotional? -- than a conventional musical development. Gaber is completely successful in creating a quietly mysterious and unsettling musical experience that operates on a subliminal rather than a rational level. The slowly unfolding work should appeal to fans of late 20th century West Coast avant-garde, music that relies for its impact more on intuition and the sensuality of the sound itself than on rigorous systematic processes.

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