Michael William Gilbert grew up in Connecticut and Brussels, Belgium. While living in Europe he first encountered the music of Varese, Stockhausen, and Pierre Henry, as well as music of India, Africa, and Japan. After studying electrical engineering at MIT, he continued studies in music at the Boston School of Electronic Music, later as a teacher and designer of synthesis systems. He graduated with a degree in music from Hampshire College, and shortly thereafter became the technical director of electronic music studios at Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has since taught electronic music at Hampshire College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Holyoke Community College.
MW Gilbert has been composing and recording actively from the 1970's through the present. In 1978 he released his first LP, Moving Pictures, with the goal of humanizing electronic music, using wooden flutes, percussion, and voice to complement synthesized sounds and textures. The Call (1980), his second LP, grew out of a desire to set jazz-influenced solo lines against a backing of drone, percussion, and soundscapes, also evoking aspects of Eastern music. The Call marks MW Gilbert's first work with multi-wind and reed player Tim Moran, experimental percussionist/vocalist David Moss, and acoustic bassist Salvatore Macchia. The LP In the Dreamtime (1982) followed and is a refinement of ideas germinated on the first two records. It uses a theme of dream imagery, exploring and merging distinctions between electronics, new jazz, and world music, and features work with Moran, Moss, and Macchia, as well as master drummer Royal Hartigan.