Sunday, June 26, 2011

Harley Gaber (1943-2011)

News comes that Harley Gaber has died, too early. By the time I was a musical adult, Gaber had cleared out of Newmusictown and his career was already something of a legend, the guy who worked all the mainstream new music institutions in New York for a while then wrote and recorded a very long, very slow, and at-the-time-very-controversial piece for strings (The Winds Rise in the North), his adé to new music, after which he was said to have given it all up to be a tennis pro in Southern California.

Of course the story is more complex than that, with a parallel visual arts career and a late shift from tennis to 9-ball pool playing, but his music remains an interesting road not-quite taken, a student of Kenneth Gaburo who worked through one form of serialism to its own radical end, which the composer insisted had a directionality not shared with drone-based minimal music. One historical footnote: it is entirely possible that Gaber's 1965 Omaggio a Feldman for two pianos was the first piece written by another composer in a Feldmaniste style; in any case, it's an interesting piece that ought to be played more. Fortunately for us, he has a substantial website, here.


signalbox said...

Thank you Daniel for the kind words. The lose of my Uncle Harley has left me lost and looking for answers that I will never know. I loved him very much and was very fortunate to get to work with him on more than one occasion. I find myself spending hours at his website looking at his pictures and playing his music.

I am working on getting the website into my name so I can keep up for as long as possible,

Last thing I want to say is that he loved Germany and all of the friends he made there. I feel that if he was able to stay there, things may have been different. I don't know. I have been obsessing over the last two weeks- why, why, why....

I tried to get him to come to Chicago- where I live and stay with me for the summer and possibly longer but he had no desire to come here.

Anyways, enough of that. Again thank you very much and a big thank you to the German community that took him in.


Chris Gaber (Harley's only Nephew)

signalbox said...

P.S. If you wish to correspond any further my email is

Signalbox is the name of my band.

Thanks again,

Chris Gaber

Unknown said...

I just found out today (Dia de los Muertos +1...) I'm bereft.

I wondered what was up since he almost always called me around Rosh Hashana to wish me a good new year but no call this year. I emailed him an mp3 today of a piece I am dedicating to him and the email was bounced back to me. Thinking to call him, instead I googled my friend and learned the awful news.

It's tragic. Not surprising in the least, though. Like Billy Pilgrim before him, Harley was "unstuck" in time. Unlike the fictional character, he was also unstuck in place. I know he belonged in Germany, not California or any other part of the US.

He was a truly great artist, a dear friend and a passionate listener who would always tell me exactly what he thought of my work. The world is a much smaller place without Harley Gaber and I will miss him for the rest of my days. Shalom aleichem, my brother. Thank you for who you were.

feloniouspunk said...

Dear Unknown, thank you for your kinds words about my Uncle. I would love to hear the piece you wrote and dedicated to him. I also have a lot of unreleased music of his as well as all the movies he was working on over the last few years. I just received 6, 1 terabyte hard drives filled with music, movies and other stuff. I am still going through it as i type. There is just so much stuff here. I want to share it with his friends. I have several of his movies that he made in Idvd which I would be willing to send you a few.

My email is

I hope you write me as I would like to meet and stay in touch with his friends,

Thank you,
Chris Gaber