Music for Organ and Tape

Of, From and For—Kenneth Gaburo (1926-1993)


Gary Verkade, Organ


Warren Burt: Recitative/Tracing (On Guns and Cock Fighting)

Kenneth Gaburo: Antiphony X (Winded)

Philip Blackburn: P.P.S.


innova 524

© American Composers Forum, 1998.

All Rights Reserved


Made via the McKnight Recording Assistance Program





In the spring of 1985 I asked Kenneth Gaburo if he would be interested in composing an organ work for me.  The question made him think seriously about the organ and what it meant to him, the long line of great works for the instrument, but also his unfamiliarity with it and the fact that the organ is mostly found in churches.  These considerations did not deter him from thinking seriously about the organ, but rather convinced him that dealing with the instrument and its environment would be a profitable undertaking for him, one from which he himself would be able to learn.  He also told me that it would in any case be an "antiphony", in keeping with his series of works for tape and live instruments.


We corresponded often about this project and every time I was in Iowa City, we talked at length about it.  I recorded a cassette with improvisations at the Clapp organ of the University of Iowa and we also met at the organ, at which time Kenneth made extensive notes about keyboard ranges, stops, playing on several manuals and pedals at once, and other technical matters.  In the autumn of 1987 we met in the Krapf Organ Studio and recorded improvisations; I at the keyboard, Kenneth recording and manipulating live the recorded sounds.  At one point he came over to the instrument, sat down, and improvised four hands with me.


In June 1988 he wrote from the Soviet Union that Antiphony X was “well-formed” in his mind.  There were many interruptions due to other responsibilities at the University of Iowa and renovation work being done in the Music Building which prevented him from working in the studio.  On the 9th of February 1990 he wrote me that the tape ("a mother") was finished.  It was only then that he began work on the score of the organ part.


At one point during the composition of the work, Kenneth related to me that he was interested in inferring order and extracting performance information for the piece from pages of graph paper randomly filled with black dots.  I received the score, complete with FFT (Fast Fourier Transform harmonic spectral analyses) prints of the tape part, about eight weeks before the premiere of the work. This was the last large work that Kenneth was to finish.


Gaburo was present at two performances of the work:  the world premier in Zurich at the World Music Days on the 16th of September, 1991 (8-track version) and the American premier at the University of Iowa on the 25th of February, 1992 (4-track version).


Antiphony X (Winded) is a work in which the composer wanted to get out of the organ everything that was left after many centuries of organ composition and context-loading.  Every last wheeze was to be coaxed, and if incapable of being coaxed, forced out of it.  It was to be exploited of every conceivable possibility remaining.  The organ as instrument and the organist as player were to be placed in a high-energy performance situation which would inevitably lead to utter exhaustion of both, though also supported and augmented by an eight-track tape consisting of live, manipulated, and imitation analog and digital organ sounds.  Where was the organ and organ playing to go from here?


After Kenneth’s death in 1993 I asked a number of former Gaburo students to write organ pieces in memory of our mutual teacher and friend.  It is fitting that two of them responded with pieces which incorporate Gaburo’s own voice, for he was very much concerned with the voice as expressive instrument, in the sense of musical instrument, but also in the sense of the persona and voice one has in society.  Warren Burt takes a spoken text of Gaburo’s to generate both a tape and an organ score, both of which follow the spoken contours of KennethÌs voice.  A dialog arises out of the effort of both tape and organ to interpret again the original spoken text.  Philip Blackburn uses a letter recorded by Gaburo upon hearing of the illness of his own teacher, Goffredo Petrassi, and a recorded voice-lesson session between Philip and Kenneth shortly before Gaburo’s own death to create a tape.  On a par with this end-of-life drama, the organ-organist entity is disembodied: the organist plays from a writing desk, separated from the organ keyboards by a good distance, but connected to the keys and stops by strings which are alternately pulled to change what is sounding from the instrument. ([email protected])



Warren Burt attended the State University of New York, Albany and the University of California, San Diego before moving to Australia in 1975.  In Australia he has worked in academia (La Trobe University; Sydney Conservatorium; Victorian College of the Arts; Australian Center for Art and Technology), education, radio (free-lance and commissioned productions for Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Public Broadcasting Association of Australia), and as a composer, film maker, video artist, and community arts organizer.  His works have been performed and shown in the USA, Australia, Europe and Japan and he has had several fellowships from the Australia Council and been artist in residence with a number of organizations, such as the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization; the Los Angeles based art-science think-tank International Synergy Institute; and the Broadcast Music Department of ABC Radio, Melbourne.

            His work with electronic and computer music is recognized internationally, including 1989 performances at Ars Electronica, Linz and Steirischer Herbst, Graz, Austria.  His video work has been selected for a number of local and international exhibitions.  In 1991 and 1992 he received Composer’s Fellowships from the Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council for his work in computer music, and performed his music and sound installations in Australia, Europe, and the USA.  His book, Writings from a Scarlet Aardvark, 15 Articles on Music and Art, 1981-93, was published in 1993 by Frog Peak Music, USA.  In 1995 he was the McKnight Visiting Composer Fellow with the American Composers Forum and 1998 a resident at the Djerassi Foundation. ([email protected])


Recitative/Tracing (On Guns and Cock Fighting) for Organ and Tape was written as a memorial to Kenneth Gaburo at the request of Organist and composer Gary Verkade.  For me, Kenneth’s work - linguistic, sonic, social, electronic, and political - is essential.  His 1987 recording of his linguistic composition Pentagony (On Guns and Cock Fighting) which was made by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is one of the most moving documents of him I know.  The quality of his voice as he performs his heart-rending text is extremely moving.  I wanted to make a piece as a memorial to Kenneth that used his “scatter” technique, where the residue of a physical process is used to produce all the aspects of a composition.  For this piece, I decided to use the ABC recording of Pentagony as the “scatter.”  Now that Kenneth is no longer with us, the only physical memories we have of him are recordings, and the most intimate of those are recordings of his voice.

            The recording of Pentagony was fed into a Pitch-to-MIDI converter, and the pitches and rhythms of Kenneth’s reading were then read and turned into a sequence(s) of pitches and rhythms the computer could understand.  Five words or phrases from the tape (which are also sampled and analyzed with Fast Fourier Transform software.  This gave me the harmonic spectra of those words as Kenneth spoke them.  I used those spectra to determine the timbres of the electronic tones the tape used.  The tape part has these electronic timbres playing the exact rhythms of Kenneth’s voice.  The organ is slightly out of sync with the tape, playing quantized speech rhythms.  After some initial chords (also derived from the harmonic analysis of his speaking voice), the organ and the tape double the single melodic line produced by the reading, a kind of recitative made by tracing, where the fused timbres of organ and tape are reminiscent, but not imitative of, the timbres of Kenneth’s voice.

            This piece was written between January and April 1994 at my home studio in St. Kilda, Melbourne, with funds provided by the Performing Arts Board of the Australian Council.



Kenneth Gaburo (1926-1993) is renowned as a teacher, pioneer of electronics in music, jazz pianist, writer, ecologist, publisher, and proponent of compositional linguistics. Over the course of a dedicated career, teaching at universities in Illinois, San Diego, and Iowa City, his uncompromising work carved out its own patch in the territory of American experimentalism.


Despite being sought after for his radical work in the fields of music composition, teaching, publishing and writing, and having had a profound influence on a generation of musical thinkers, Kenneth Gaburo remains an undersung hero.


Born in 1926 in Somerville, New Jersey, to an immigrant Italian family in the laundry business, Gaburo excelled at musical studies, playing the piano and singing in choirs at an early age.  As a child he was familiar with the New York jazz scene, and an underlying jazz feel can be sensed in even the most experimental of his later works. His time at the Eastman School of Music which began in 1943 was interrupted by service in the army.  Initially stationed in the Phillippines as a strafer bomber his musical skills were soon recognized.  He spent the remainder of the war travelling with a jazz band around the Pacific as pianist and arranger.


After returning to complete his Master of Music degree at Eastman with Bernard Rogers,  Gaburo taught at Kent State University, Ohio, and then McNeese State College, Louisiana.  A Fulbright Fellowship in 1954 enabled him to travel to Rome to study composition with Goffredo Petrassi at the Conservatorio de Santa Cecilia.  In 1962 he completed his D.M.A. at the University of Illinois, studying composition with Burrill Phillips and Hubert Kessler.  He remained there on the faculty until 1968.  During this time he was an active organizer of the annual international Festival of Contemporary Arts.  In 1955 he began to work with combining concrete sounds on tape with live performers; an interest that was to continue for the rest of his life—the series of ten Antiphonies featuring live instruments and pre-recorded tape were made from 1958 to 1992. 


Growing from a concern for music-as-language and language-as-music Gaburo started formal studies in linguistics in 1959, formulating the term Compositional Linguistics

In 1965 he founded the New Music Choral Ensemble (NMCE) one of the first choirs in the U.S. to perform avant-garde music for voice.  This group performed over 100 new works in the decade of its existence, from the choral music of Schoenberg, Nono, Oliveros, Kagel, and Messiaen, to the theater works of Becket and Albee.  Improvisation was combined with electronics, body and verbal linguistics, computers, dance, mime, film, slides, and tape.  For his work up to this time Gaburo had received awards from the Guggenheim, UNESCO, Thorne, Fromm, and Koussevitsky Foundations.


In 1967 he joined the faculty at the new San Diego campus of the University of California where in 1972 a Rockefeller Foundation grant enabled him to start NMCE IV, this time with one singer, one actor, one speaker, one mime, and one sound-movement-instrumentalist.  Until his resignation from UCSD in 1975 he produced a large number of integrated theatrical works, such as the collection Lingua and Privacy.


In 1974 Gaburo founded Lingua Press Publishers, dedicated to putting forth unique artist-produced works in all media having to do with language and music.  Many of the publications have been exhibited in book art shows throughout the world.  Gaburo lived in the Anzo-Borrego desert writing and teaching from 1980 until 1983.  In 1980 he was artistic director for the first "authentic" production of Harry Partch's The Bewitched for the Berlin Festival (recorded on Enclosure Five: Harry Partch, innova 405).  His understanding of Partch's concept of corporeality has deep connections with his own concern for physicality and how it informs compositions.  His 1982 tape work, RE-RUN, for instance, was generated after a 20-hour sensory deprivation exercise.


He became Director of the Experimental Music Studio at the University of Iowa in 1983.   The studio put intensive focus on composition, technology, psycho-acoustic perception, performance, and the affirmation of the uniqueness of the individual to create his/her own language reality. At the studio he founded the Seminar for Cognitive Studies, a forum for discussion of the creative process.  His concern for the investigation of music as legitimate research, and composition as the creation of intrinsic appropriate language, led to a series of readings in compositional linguistics for solo performer: "IT IS THE MOST TO ME PROBABLY BEAUTIFUL TO PONDER-WONDER ONE'S WAY INTO MAKING, (I.E., COMPOSITION)."  [Opening of Essays on Damage, Part Two: LA, 1987].  He also continued interests in artificial intelligence, ecological and political systems.


His socio-political work is evident in his massive 10-hour theater work, The Scratch Project, one part of which, Testimony, is a video and sound installation of several thousand individual responses to the question of how one feels about being considered expendable in the nuclear age.  His 1988 work ENOUGH! [...not enough...] for forty voices and percussion sets a text by Benjamin Franklin expressing doubt before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  In a number of densely polyphonic works for solo reader, ESSAYS ON DAMAGE; Pent/ago/ny, ISIT, LA, HISS, AH DIO, he discusses, among other things, sound as spirit, language, politics, and how to get rid of a bad idea. That same year Gaburo toured Russia, Poland, Sweden, and Australia as performer and composer.  While in Australia he began a new direction for him, that of making works for radio.


Antiphony VIII: Revolution, 1985, for percussion (Steve Schick) and tape, Antiphony IX: A Dot is No Mere Thing, 1985, for orchestra, children, and tape, and Antiphony X: Winded, for organ (Gary Verkade) and tape, continued his series of works for live instruments and tape as well as the use of  graphic notations and random processes to generate small and large scale events.  The employment of this technique of composing by inferring order out of an initial random array "in order to subvert my history" led Gaburo to grow significantly with each new work while yet remaining a distinctive and compelling voice.


Gaburo’s archive is housed at the University of Illinois Music Library and Lingua Press is represented by Frog Peak Music.


Also by Gaburo on CD:

• Antiphony IX (A Dot) for Orchestra, Children and Tape, and ENOUGH! ---(not enough)---; for 40 voices and percussion (Steven Schick).  Music and Arts CD 832.

• Tape Works.  Pogus 21019-2 (in preparation)


Antiphony X (Winded)

            My first Antiphony was made in 1957.  Currently there are ten.  Each consists of a unique interaction between electro-acoustic sound and live performers.  Antiphony X was commissioned by Gary Verkade.

            Imagine a church setting with soloist and organ at one end of the space, and eight acoustic speakers at the other end.  The audience is situated in between, —caught up in a duel (for life) between them.

            Essentially, the metaphor, (Winded), is about my (our) recognition that I (we) am (are) a part of history, and come from it.  I acknowledge it, but have no reverence for it, —nor am I sustained by it.  Given the continual noise, —(violence)—, about us, it is clear to me that Aristotle, (et alia), can no longer help resolve our problems for us.  History has to be deconstructed; —sup-planted by new voices in, from, and for our time.

            Antiphony X puts forth one such 'voice'.


The tape and acoustic parts are divided into seven bands describing the relationship of the push-pull between the parts:

1. Playful, Assertive, Searing

2. Aggressive, Delicate, Hollow

3. Human voice-like, Driving, Growling

4. Arrogant, On Fire, Weakened

5. pain, Pushing, Piercing

6. Wounded, Pseudo-joyful comeback, Weeping

7. Breathy, Noise, Dread, Winded



            Philip Blackburn (b. 1962) started composing at the age of 16.  He was a co-founder of the Oxford composers' collective Soundpool and developed a number of improvised, notated, and electronic works which were performed in Oxford and London.  He began studies in experimental music, cognitive studies, phenomenology, linguistics, and theatre with Kenneth Gaburo in San Diego in 1979.

            Subsequently he attended Cambridge University on a Choral Scholarship to Clare College. In 1985 Blackburn moved to Iowa City to continue studies with Kenneth Gaburo where he began to involve non-trained musicians in his compositions and investigate the notion of composition as meditation; these were the first in an on-going series of verbal instruction scores, collectively known as Music to Play, used to generate musical performances by any number of participants, regardless of "musical" training. 

            He has researched Vietnamese music and been active in linking Vietnamese and American musicians.  He has also travelled to Australia to study sound-sculpture and is now designing and constructing a prototype Sonic Playground.  He has completed a 15-year project begun by Gaburo to publish the archives of composer Harry Partch; the Enclosure series (innova 400-405) has gained worldwide attention.

            Blackburn has been Program Director of the American Composers Forum since 1992. ([email protected])


P.P.S. for Organ and 2-Channel Tape (1994)

Philip Blackburn


As he learned that his beloved former composition teacher Goffredo Petrassi had become ill and no longer able to read, Kenneth Gaburo recorded a letter to send to him.  In it Kenneth recounts (in Italian, his little-used mother-tongue) the last few decades of his own life since their last communication (Kenneth was not known as a timely correspondent!) and introduces two works which were to accompany the letter: Antiphony VIII (Revolution) for Percussion and Tape, and Antiphony IX (A Dot), for Orchestra, Children, and Tape.  P.P.S. [Post-Post Scriptum] is my addendum to the letter of his life for Gary Verkade to play for Kenneth, our teacher.  It incorporates vocalizations made during a singing lesson in the last week of his life; a tribute to the "pain piece" he so wanted to write.


In performance the work is minimally theatrical, with the player sitting at a lit table writing a private stream-of-consciousness journal.  The three organ manuals and stops have previously been prepared with pegs to hold down specified keys corresponding to the resonant frequencies of Kenneth's voice.  The clusters of each manual represent the aggregate pitches of his voice during that section.  The pegs are attached to long fishing lines and draped over to the player's desk like a silk loom.  As Kenneth's voice matches one of the pitches in the cluster the player releases that key, thus creating a pre-echo transfer from the organ to the speaker.  One speaker is placed at the front near the audience, the other hidden inside the organ, thereby enabling spatial transfers and mingling of the vocal organ.



Sad to hear that Petrassi can no longer read or write, Kenneth often thinks of the Tanglewood orchestral performance from his student days. At the University of Illinois he founded the New Music Choral Ensemble to begin investigating the voice and music as language.  His first wife became insane and in 1968 he went to the University of California-San Diego; his eventual resignation led to many problems, but he stuck to his principles.  He moved to the Anzo Borrego desert, started Lingua Press publishers and studied ecological systems.  In 1982 his friend Peter Todd Lewis died so he moved to the University of Iowa Experimental Studios against his better judgment.  He again found more institutional corruption and resigned again.  He plans to start a big new alternative school for cognitive studies (for chaos, holism, political, and phenomenological studies).  He introduces Antiphony IX (a dot is no mere thing) for Orchestra, Children and Tape (its desert-like stasis and random qualities) and Antiphony VIII (Revolution), a psychodrama for Percussionist and Tape on the theme of human expendibility in the event of nuclear war.  He apologizes for his rusty Italian and sends all good wishes.  In a post-script he mentions that Antiphony VIII will be broadcast on Radio Italia.


Burt and Blackburn works were recorded in live performance on the Cassavant organ at Clapp Recital Hall, University of Iowa, Iowa City during the 1995 Society of Composers, Inc. national conference.  Gaburo was recorded in Düsseldorf, Germany, WHEN?


Thanks to: Mark Gaburo, Lowell Cross, University of Iowa Recording Studios... Dusseldorf guy

Graphic Design: Philip Blackburn