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Michael Brook: Infinite Hybrid
from Real World Notes 6
by Richard Henderson, July 1998
[archived here without permission]

Michael Brook has established his presence in contempoary music by means both numerous and varied. As a solo performer, he has toured the world perfoming compositions which are sleek, elegant, disturbing and powerful. His technical aptitude yields inventions on the order of the Infinite Guitar, which has become Michael's musical signature. The complexion of his own music, born of love for Middle Eastern and Indian melodies, has unique and undeniable pictoral qualities; the numerous projects and collaborations which Michael has produced in this decade for the Real World Records label have given us a great deal of pleasure.

Michael Brook was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, where as a teenager he played guitar in several local bands. During late '70s music studies at Toronto's York University, his abilities were recognised by his instructor, the American composer and trumpeter Jon Hassell. Michael helped in the recording of Hassell's 'Vernal Equinox' album and went on to play guitar in Hassell's concert ensemble through the early '80s. Studies with avant-minimalist La Monte Young and the Hindustani classical vocalist Pandit Pran Nath in the early '80s shaped a greater appreciation of extra-European music, helping to determine Michael's stance on the lessons learned form world music. On his 1985 debut album 'Hybrid', Michael grafted Indian and Arabic melodies onto an ambient framewordk, introducing the singular colours of his invention, the Infinite Guitar. The rythmic component in his music has gained prominence in recent years, but Michael still hews to the basic conceptual template from which he fashioned his first collection and its sequel, 1992's 'Cobalt Blue'. In part, the admixture of ethnic and electronic elements which characterises his work grew out of musical experimentation in the company of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois; both artists guested on Michael's two studio albums.

For Real World, Michael supervised the recording and collaborated musically on the critically acclaimed albums of qawwali singing by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, 'Mustt Mustt' and 'Night Song'. Other RWR projects include the 'Dream' collaboration with Indian master violinist U Srinivas, 'S'amore 'e mama' for the Sardinian vocal quartet Tenores di Bitti, and 'The Seven Steps to Mercy' with the Irish sean nos singer Iarla O Lionaird. Other collaborators materialsed in the persons of a new generation of UK remixers of Asian descent, reworking the basic elements from that album to create the 1997 remix compilation 'Star Rise', also issued on Real World.

Similar to the genesis of his working relationship with Nusrat, Michael Brook previously produced a solo album of traditional repertoire ('The Moon Shines at Night', on the All Saints label) for his latest collaborator, Djivan Gasparyan. A musician also rooted in a folk tradition which is centuries old, Gasparyan plays the haunting traditional melodies of this native Armenia on the duduk, a cylindrical wooden flute. He was decreed the People's Artist in 1973 by the Armenian government, and his since received exposure to Western audiences via performances with the Kronos Quartet and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. With their most recent recordings, Djivan Gasparyan and Michael Brook have fashioned a unique musical hybrid.