G is for Gordon

Michael Gordon is a composer who is one of the founding members of the Contemporary music ensemble/composer collective/record label: Bang on a Can. Alongside Julia Wolfe and David Lang this group has become a contemporary music sensation.

While all three of these composers have ties to minimalism Gordon seems to standout with many pieces that are complex repetitive droning structures. Sometimes this music can seem to be putting some kind of trance on the listener with its ability to constantly recycle rhythmically complex loops over and over.

Currently, the CalArts Percussion Ensemble is preparing a performance of his piece Timber for 6 percussionists playing 2X4. I have always enjoyed this piece very much, it was one of the first pieces I listened on CD by the Bang On a Can composers and I saw Mantra Percussion perform the piece at PASIC during my freshman year of college. It’s always thrilling to play a piece I’ve had a connection to for a while (similar to the experience of playing Inuksuit by John Luther Adams for the first time). Soon after Timber, a recording of his piece Rushes was released. Rushes is very similar in its construction and sound to Timber. In its concept it’s a sort of sister piece to Timber. The main different being the instrumentation as Rushes is for 7 Bassoons. I have to admit I was skeptical when I first discovered the piece. I thought it was essentially just going to be a rearrangement of Timber however, that change as soon as I heard it. It’s almost bizarre how different the affect of the two different pieces are in sound. The similarities are endless (both instruments are made of wood, more or less the same number of players, similar resonance and sustain in the way the instruments are used, same rhythmic pulsing, same duration, etc.) yet each piece is it’s own unique composition. It’s clear these works are by the same composer but, other than that they are two entirely different sounds.


Recommended Listening/Viewing:



Shelter (cowritten with David Lang and Julia Wolfe)

Music for Airports by Brian Eno (coarranged with David Lang and Julia Wolfe)


Rewriting Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony

Gene Takes a Drink (Part of the Bank on a Can Field Recording Project)


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