SYNTH PIONEER
PATRICK GLEESON

(updated and revised 12/08)

by Tony Maygarden


Patrick Gleeson began experimenting with electronic music in the mid-'60s at the Mills College Tape Music Center using a Buchla synth and other devices. Upon hearing Walter Carlos' Switched-On Bach in 1968, he left his job in academics, bought a Moog synthesizer, and started Different Fur studios in San Francisco.

Herbie Hancock Sextant LP cover

Herbie Hancock, Sextant

Charles Earland Leaving This Planet LP cover

Charles Earland, Leaving This Planet

Christmas in San Francisco LP cover

Christmas in San Francisco


In 1971 Gleeson began playing with jazz great Herbie Hancock, and his Arp 2600 synth playing can be heard on Hancock's Crossings and Sextant. He toured with Hancock's band during this period. Gleeson has worked with many other jazz musicians, including Lenny White, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Earland, Joe Henderson and others. He last toured with Stomu Yamashta's band in 1977.

Gleeson co-produced, composed, and arranged synthesizers for Christmas in San Francisco, a 1974 "live in the city" music event album, recorded by Different Fur, that was part of the Embarcadero Center's Living Arts Program.

In 1976 he released his first solo album of synthesized music, Beyond the Sun - An Electronic Portrait of Holst's "The Planets." Gleeson played the Eu Polyphonic Synthesizer on this album. In his liner notes he explains that earlier synths, such as the Moogs and Arps of the period, were monophonic, i.e. they could only play one note at a time. The Eu was polyphonic (could play more than one note at a time) and had a built in microcomputer that allowed the user to control the synth with "binary language."

The album is dedicated to "Robert Moog and and W. Carlos." Walter Carlos also contributed the liner notes: "...Gleeson's grasp of color -- orchestral, textural, infinitely elastic shades of subtle grays and contrasts between families of timbre -- is simply stunning." Carlos also goes on to make some comments about the Eu sequencer as opposed to the live overdub approach used on Switched-On Bach.

A beautiful sounding recording, (co-engineered at Different Fur by Neil Schwartz), Beyond the Sun was nominated for a "best engineered recording-classical" Grammy in 1976.

Patrick Gleeson Beyond the Sun LP cover

Beyond the Sun

Patrick Gleeson Star Wars LP cover

Patrick Gleeson's Star Wars


In 1977 Gleeson released a more commercial album, Patrick Gleeson's Star Wars. John Williams' music from the film's soundtrack was played by Gleeson on a variety of synths, often accompanied with a funky, almost disco-like rhythm track.

Rainbow Delta, an all original work, was released in 1980. There are two suites, "Rainbow Delta" and "Draconian Measures." "Rainbow Delta" opens with a strong pulsing rhythm track utilizing synth drums, and includes some neat synth bird, cricket and storm effects. "Draconian Measures" features atmospheric soundtrack-like pieces with synth morse code and gunfire punctuations.


Patrick Gleeson's Computer Realization of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons was released in 1982 on the Varese Sarabande label, utilizing a Synclavier synth.

Gleeson and Different Fur were involved a variety of projects in the '70s, including work with Paul Kantner and Grace Slick on their 1971 album Sunfighter (he plays Moog and is co-author of "Universal Copernican Mumbles"). He produced Coke Escovedo's 1976 LP Comin' at Ya! at Different Fur, and a 1978 session there with New Wave/Punk band Devo produced the classic "Come Back Jonee." Go to wikipedia's page for Different Fur for a more complete list of works recorded there.

Gleeson was involved in many film and TV soundtrack projects. In 1979 he worked on the soundtrack of Apocalypse Now, where he is credited as "Master Synthesist." At least two of his other film soundtracks, The Plague Dogs ('82) and The Bedroom Window ('87) were released on LP. For a more complete list of Gleeson's soundtrack work, check out his page on imdb.

Gleeson sold his interest in Different Fur to two employees in 1985. In 1998, Gleeson released an album with Bennie Maupin, Driving While Black, and in 2007 a solo album, Slide.

 

Paul Kantner Grace Slick Sunfighter LP cover

Paul Kantner/Grace Slick, Sunfighter

Devo Come Back Jonee single sleeve

Devo, "Come Back Jonee"

Apocalypse Now LP cover

Apocalypse Now soundtrack

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