Jack Gabel, Composer

Photo: Chris Leck

Photo: Chris Leck

Jack Gabel presently lives in Portland, Oregon. He has traveled extensively, throughout Europe, Africa and Asia and worked many summers as a commercial fisherman in Alaska.

Jack Gabel has written numerous concert hall works for many different combinations of instruments and voices, with and without electroacoustic accompaniments and/or enhancements. He also creates mixed-media works alone and with collaborators, using musique concrete and poetry, frequently his own, some of which has been published apart from its use in contemporary performance pieces and more traditional settings for singers.

Though classically trained with composers Derek Healey, Tomas Svoboda and poet Ralph Salisbury, Gabel recounts as his most memorable musical experience, the impromptu jam session he had with an Afghan tribesman in a Herat tea house in 1972 -- the composer on mouth organ and the local talent holding forth on his handmade, rough-hewn, 3-string lute. The two miraculously found a common modality straight away and carried on for several hours. "No concert-hall premiere or recording session can to date compare," adds the composer, "nor likely ever will."

Today, Gabel's work is infused with widely varied ethnic and ancient colors and motives, most notably those of the ancient, native cultures of North America.

His 1997 article History of Electronic Music for the All Music Guide can be found at www.allmusic.com

In addition to his NPM releases, Jack Gabel's discography includes

Whale Hunt Dream on the MMC (2000) release Viola Concertos, Vol. II by Karen Dreyfus with the Silesian Philharmonic, Jerzy Svoboda conducting

Etude de la Saison for solo koto, by Elizabeth Falconer on the Sparkling Beatnik (2000) release, Water Colors

Auto-Mobile from original poetry for tenor sax, processed string bass and narrator/percussionist on a percussion battery infused with junked car parts, on the The Third Angle New Music Ensemble's Gagliano Records (1999) release, The Junkyard Concer

About Sturnella neglecta:

"Sturnella neglecta" (Western Meadowlark) -- my first Oregon Bird Sketch -- is inspired by Olivier Messiean's "Petites esquisses d'oiseaux" (Little sketches of birds). As a graduate student in music composition at the University of Oregon, under the tutelage of Derek Healey, I made an intense study of Messiaen. Choosing to bridge my PPI commission to Messiaen was natural. Composing it was rewarding. I extend sincere gratitude to PPI for the opportunity.

Messiaen's "Petites esquisses d'oiseaux" is a charmingly personal, playful set of piano trifles, entertained late in the composer's career. The suite of miniatures reads almost like a compendium of Messiaen's technique, phraseology and aesthetic disposition. The set was composed for, and premiered by his wife and long-time collaborator, Yvonne Loriod.

As for the song of the Western Meadowlark, when researched at length, what I learned was initially distressing. The song is widely varied across Western North America, even within Oregon. Literally, there is no single song of the Western Meadowlark. My solution was to study the few most prominent recorded and notated versions and distill the essential elements into a single gesture -- the opening gesture -- which I then render in artistic abstraction -- not unlike Messiaen's treatments. So, one should not expect to hear a precise iteration of the Meadowlark they know, rather essential fragments. The essence permeates.

I undertook my composition on the song of the Western Meadowlark for several reasons: first, it is the Oregon State Bird; second, it is one I hear often in the field training my hunting dog. This is a new passion in my life and because he is an upland game bird pointer, our time in the field training has heightened my awareness to birds in general. I don't imagine I'll be composing an extended suite on Oregon bird songs, well, who knows? But, I would like to compose a few more sketches to complement this one.

Finally, so much inspiration in this work is taken from the field, where I train my dog (which I inherited from my brother about two years ago). Because my wife, Agnieszka Laska, has been so helpful in the training, I am dedicating "Sturnella neglecta" to her, with whom I am also a long-time artistic collaborator, serving as Resident Composer and Technical Director in her company, Agnieszka Laska Dancers. Her support in all aspects of my life is invaluable.

To learn more about Jack and his other work, visit his website.