Bob Gluck


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.

'Yiddish Songs II' (1997) was composed as a soundtrack to 'Inherited Memories', a video by Cynthia Rubin (3:48), 1997. It is based upon materials from 'Yiddish Songs'. Public premieres of 'Inherited Memories' were at the 1997 SIGGRAPH animation festival, Los Angeles CA; and at "Ritual Acts: Videos by Women" MediaSpace at the DeCordova Museum, Boston, MA (1998). Subsequent showings have included 2nd Annual VideoUS (2000), Stockholm, Sweden; 2001 Glasgow Film Theatre (in conjunction with CADE), Glasgow, UK; Rochester, NY Film Festival (2001). Premiere performances of the soundtrack alone took place at the 1998 Israel Festival's electro-acoustic concert at the Berlin Hochschule der Kuenste, Collage Jukebox 98, and Kunst In Der Stadt II, Bregenz.

'Woodstock Soundscape' (2000) is a soundscape composition capturing the life of a Jewish synagogue. It was crafted to be heard as part of the sound installation, 'Sounds of a Community', and received its premiere at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation in March 2000.

'Miles Before' (2002) is an April 2002 concert recording of a work for live electronic performance system, including a processed Saz, outiftted with I-Cube sensors, and a software interface designed with Max / MSP. This work received its premiere at Congregation Ohav Shalom, Albany, New York, January 2002.

'Shofaralong' (2001) is an April 2002 concert recording of a work for live electronic performance system, including processed shofar (ram's horn) outiftted with an I-Cube sensor glove controller, and a software interface designed with Max / MSP. This work received its premiere at the Schenectady JCC in Schenectady, New York, November 2001, with support from a commission grant from Meet the Composer.

'Klezfez' (2001) is a November 2001 recording of a work for eBoard electronic controller and klezmer sound samples, and processed acoustic 'dulciharp'. eBoard is a home-built multi-sensor electronic musical instrument using I-Cube sensors and digitizer, and software interfaces designed with Max / MSP. The 'dulciharp' is a four-string harp built using dulcimer strings, attached to the eBoard. This work received its premiere in April 2001 at Mobius in Boston, and at Renssellaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York.

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 completely visible.

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 college.

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 media.

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


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 evocative."

"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 well."

"... [my Jewish partner] found the connections between the ritual objects and the sounds to be very satisfying ..."

Bob Gluck
15 Lake Shore Drive, 1-B
Waterviet, NY 12189 (USA)