Remembering Bob

Today we are in Amsterdam for the funeral of Bob Gilmore, who died in the early hours of Friday, 2 January with his beloved Elisabeth next to him. Bob will be remembered as a great musician, musicologist, teacher and father — but also, and by so many, as a warm, inspiring and funny friend. Just three-and-a-half years ago we both travelled to this city to celebrate Bob’s fiftieth birthday; it is with immense sadness that we are here again to say farewell.

Our first introduction to Bob, as recent as 2006, said much about his giving spirit and eagerness to help young composers. We were both students of Donnacha Dennehy at Trinity College, Dublin; Bob gave a guest lecture as well as one-on-one sessions with the composition students. Despite being fully-booked, Bob made time to meet us both, and responded to our work with a warmth and enthusiasm that felt like a real vote of confidence. We each walked out having received a crash course in microtonal theory (just one of Bob’s great interests), and a thick pile of articles and recordings.

Bob used to say, “I don’t feel right unless I’ve burnt at least one disc for someone each day.” He was extraordinarily generous about sharing the music he was passionate about, and thus probably more of a catalyst for creativity than we (or even he) ever knew. Reading tributes to Bob this week, it is remarkable but unsurprising just how many people Bob touched, not just at a distance or in passing, but profoundly and all over the world.

He gave us serious encouragement to follow our own creative paths, and to make things happen in a concrete way. Later that year we founded Ergodos by producing our first festival; Bob’s gentle influence has been with us ever since. He was directly involved in many of our productions and releases — our first record was with his group Trio Scordatura — but also more obliquely by way of his benevolent presence, and kindness. Until his diagnosis with cancer, Bob thought nothing of flying to Dublin just to attend a concert; his confidence in us was always felt.

Bob made an art out of the very absence of artifice; the unpretentiousness of his person and writing was both refreshing and rare. For Bob, it seemed, there was no great distinction between his love of Ulster potato bread and the hobo songs of Harry Partch, an emphatic swear-word or the dense harmonies of Phill Niblock. Bob’s writings frequently communicated the most complex of ideas in the simplest of terms. He brought together the most contrasting fields of experience with such ease.

This morning our memories of Bob stream in: Rehearsing in the living room of Bob and Elisabeth’s old apartment in Van Oldenbarneveldstraat, Bob listening with ferocious intensity. A midnight drive through snow-covered Belgian fields, Bob in the back seat drinking Jupiler and eating nuts to Philip Glass’ Music in Twelve Parts. Performing Alvin Lucier’s I remember in a Dublin church with Bob’s soft voice resonating in a teapot. Bob, with his familiar black jacket and famous hair, advancing down a railway platform, arms open.

Garrett Sholdice & Benedict Schlepper-Connolly
Amsterdam, 7 January 2014

Photo: Paolo Giudici.

Read Bob’s articles for The Journal of Music here.
Listen to Bob’s podcast series Tentative Affinities here.
See Bob’s bibliography on his Wikipedia page.

Further tributes to Bob Gilmore (1961–2015)
We’d like to link as many pieces about Bob as possible; please let email us at [email protected] if we have missed any.

Donnacha Dennehy
Ian Pace
Christopher Pressler
Kyle Gann
Christopher Fox
Contemporary Music Centre
Arts Council of Northern Ireland
Orpheus Instituut
Jon Roy