The relationship between music and architecture has for many decades been source of fascination for Gilbert. A range of works reflecting on the complexity and beauty of French medieval cathedrals has been the result. Ziggurat is in many ways a companion to these, albeit the type of structure it was engendered by existed a good millennium earlier. It was commissioned in 1993 by the Duo Contemporain, Henri Bok, bass clarinet and Miguel Bernat, percussion, as a sequal to a number of pieces he’d written for them reflecting on the architecture of Chartes Cathedral.
Although it was a type of memorial to a leading figure in Babylonian (or indeed Amerindian) society, the ziggurat celebrates life. Starting at ground level, a pathway or staircase winds up around the conical structure, decorated with passages of visual narrative and imagery. Gilbert’s duo for bass clarinet and marimba engages in a similar journey, continuously climbing but also episodic, with passages of wild virtuoso music separated by steady, directed motion. Colour-changes involving bass clarinet multiphonics and rich chordal writing for the marimba feature strongly.
In its original form the work lasted over eighteen minutes; in 2014 Gilbert decided to extensively rewrite the work in order to sharpen its musical focus. It is now just over two thirds of its original length, with resultant heightened intensity.