Photo credit: Bruce Odland
Rob Morsberger is a professional freelance composer and songwriter with diverse interests. As a record maker he has released three acclaimed solo CDs. Classically trained, he has become a top-call composer for PBS and a regular contributor to the series NOVA. He is composer for the series NOVAscienceNOW, which has just been renewed for 2007. His credits as an arranger and sideman (on keyboards/accordian/vocals) include Jules Shear, Loudon Wainwright III, Dan Zanes, The Roches, and Marshall Crenshaw. He also works frequently with educational book publishers as a songwriter-for-hire.
The son of an itinerant painter/fine artist, Morsberger moved to England as a child and attended secondary school in Oxford. He studied bassoon, piano and composition and was awarded the sole entrance scholarship, for most outstanding applicant in music, at Edinburgh University in 1977. There he studied with composers Kenneth Leighton and Edward Harper, among others. In Scotland Morsberger also began apprenticing with local funk and jazz bands, worked as a dance accompanist and began receiving commisions for original scores. He composed Randombach 3, a three-movement electro-acoustic work for Scottish Ballet in 1983, conducted his own orchestral works in the Edinburgh Queens Hall and elsewhere, created an improvised dramatic underscore for BBC Radio Scotland (with clarinettist Dick Lee) and worked regularly with experimental saxophonist/composer Steve Kettley. He graduated with the sole first (summa cum laude) awarded in 1985.
Moving to New York City, Morsberger landed a songwriting publishing deal with Famous Music/Paramount and began composing for national television, with clients including PBS, ABC, CBS, A&E, National Geographic and others. His background in classical music, coupled with an active engagement in and genuine love for a wide range of vernacular styles, made him a versatile musical craftsman. He devoted many years to mastering the tools and techniques of electronic musicmaking and the effective use of synthesizers and samplers. Orchestral scores became a particular area of interest and expertise.
In 1995 he forged an ongoing and fruitful collaboration with guitarist Jon Herington (Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs), bassist Paul Ossola (Saturday Night Live, Levon Helm) and drummer Robin Gould (Michael Franks, Carly Simon), with Morsberger on vocals and keyboards. Their third and latest release, A Periodic Rush of Waves, was produced by Stewart Lerman (The Roches, Dar Williams) and features cameo appearances by songwriter greats Jules Shear and Marshall Crenshaw.
Morsbergerâ€™s work as a songwriter has increasingly synthesized his disparate musical interests; â€˜Hieroglyphâ€™, scored for piano, strings and voice is the most overt nod to his love of concert music. Thematically all three CDs reveal his overriding belief in pop songwriting as an ideal medium for exploring ideas that interest him. Love is often viewed through the twin prisms of science and literature. Waiting for Wood, his debut album, concludes with a scientist announcing his discovery of the Universal Theory (â€˜The End of Physicsâ€™). Elsewhere, Morsberger playfully tips his hat to Shakespeareâ€™s gender comedies with the song â€˜As You Like Itâ€™. His second CD, Relativity Blues, is centered around a tryptych of songs exporing the legacy of Einstein in the postmodern world. The new album opens with â€˜Sense and Sensibilityâ€™, the result of a lifelong love for the novels of Jane Austen. The Beatlesque homage â€˜Itâ€™s Only a Songâ€™ was inspired by the literary gamesmanship of authors like Paul Auster, Michael Frayn and Ian McEwan. Morsberger plays with listenersâ€™ perceptions and loyalties and declares (humorously) that they have been deceived by an aural sleight of hand: a periodic rush of waves wrongly invested with meaning. â€˜The Music of Timeâ€™ is sung by an imagined Charles Darwin on the SS Beagle. Featuring some lines lifted from actual correspondance, Darwin sings passionately of his growing insight into the theory of evolution while bemoaning his newly discovered betrayal by former girlfriend Fanny Owen. Likewise, the protagonist of â€˜Hieroglyphâ€™ contemplates the mysteries of hieroglyphic art and a photograph of the woman who has left him.
Another theme prevalent in Morsbergerâ€™s songwriting is parenthood; he is the proud father of three sons. Relativity Blues concludes with the song â€˜This Enchanted Worldâ€™. A direct reference to Christopher Robinâ€™s farewell to childhood, the song takes issue with A. A. Milneâ€™s view of childhood as the unique repository of enchantment. Instead, Morsberger suggests that all of us, adults and children alike, grow more enchanted with each passing hour.
So donâ€™t look back over your shoulder,
or regret the passage of time.
You just get a little older.
Everything will work out fine.
In this enchanted world,
your soul will grow and blossom like a flower.
In this enchanted world,
you just get more enchanting by the hour.