four archival film documents from jon gibson

A short while back, I wrote up the reissue of Jon Gibson’s seminal album Two Solo Pieces. It is the second of the composer’s slim body of recordings from the 1970’s to have recently reemerged – proceeded by Visitations, which Superior Viaduct brought back in 2015. Gibson has long been among the more sinfully overlooked contributors to the canon of Minimalist music – often resting in the shadow of his more famous peers. He is also one of my favorites. Upon discovering the wonders held by Phillip Glass’ tiny Chatham Square imprint, Gibson’s contributions where the first I sought to track down. They have retained a treasured presence in my collection ever since. They are also albums that I never thought I would see reissued. The joy of having been proved wrong – particularly since the recent  reissue of Two Solo Pieces, has kept Gibson in my thoughts for the last few weeks.

 

Jon Gibson – Cycles, from Two Solo Pieces (1977)

Gibson is one of the great threads within the history of Minimalism – a composer of profound weight, founding member of both Steve Reich and Phillip Glass’ ensembles, and an early collaborator with Terry Riley and LaMonte Young. He is a rare figure – as accomplished as any from his generation, while selflessly dedicating much of his time and energy to supporting and realizing the music of others.

 

Jon Gibson ‎– Visitations I & II + Thirties, from Visitations (1973)

In addition to the obvious links which Gibson’s career provides, perhaps most importantly, his music, through its elements and structures, allows for a more democratic vision of connections within the larger body of avant-garde practice during the period in which he emerged. The orthodox narrative of Minimalist music – as is most commonly told, is that it largely grew from – reacting to and against, the ideas and sounds of Serialism and John Cage. As such, it has been framed hermetically within the traditions of Western classical music. While the references to external influence are present – the music of India in the case of Riley and Young, and African drumming in that of Reich, conspicuously absent are mentions of free improvisation and the larger body of American jazz. This is not by accident. Cage in particular was renowned for his detraction of these musics, and in the years since, academia’s reverence for him has furthered these sins – ignoring the fact that most prominent Minimalist composers have expressed a deep awareness of, with respect and affection for, the great African American art forms. Gibson’s music, which often presents deep connections to free jazz, is the bearer of inconvenient truths – the open discourses which once existed within the larger body of the avant-garde, making them less easy to ignore.

 

 

As I wrote my review of Two Solo Pieces, I stumbled across Gibson’s Youtube page – discovering that he had shared a small number of archival videos of performances and collaborations with filmmakers. Out affection for the composer, and the simple fact that they are fantastic on every count, I thought I might humbly pass them on. For those interested in learning more, I highly recommend reading this interview with Gibson, conducted by the wonderful Britton Powell of Catch Wave. I hope you enjoy.

-Bradford Bailey

 

Jon Gibson – Solo Concert at Franklin St Arts Center, NYC (1978)

 

Jon Gibson – Solo Concert at Franklin St Arts Center, NYC (1978)

 

Jon Gibson’s music Extensions II to Roy Zurick video Canal High Bus

 

Jon Gibson – Interval  (1985) Direction and editing by Duff Schweninger, with audio engineering by Dan Dryden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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