home | recordings | compositions | press | services | instruction | articles | studio | biography | credits | links


J. GERBER Symphony No. 10. In Time There Will Be No Time. Invention in Three Parts. Ballad. E-Toccata   Ÿ  Jerry Gerber (syn)   Ÿ  OTTAVA 19-014 (48:20)

This is one of many albums released by Jerry Gerber that uses synthesized sounds: it is his 14th release, in fact. This is not to imply any shortcuts are taken: the Symphony No. 10 took Gerber some two and a half years to compose. Each movement of this symphony has a descriptive title, and the first is “Play Time”; clearly some dramatic play at work here. In instances like this one cannot really talk about the “performance” per se, as the experience is predetermined to be wrong note-free. To an extent, one’s response will be determined by what one brings to the table when listening: Gerber’s achievement is to create an “alternative” orchestral reality that is like, but not identical to, the traditional symphony orchestra (and in the second piece the traditional string orchestra, and in the third, the traditional, acoustic, piano). Orchestrally at least, the sound palette is just as varied (arguably more so) but of course human rubato and the suchlike go the same way as wrong notes.

The disc is produced using three sound libraries, five synthesizers; mixing equipment, software, sound processing and monitoring are all itemised for the reader of the booklet. Certainly, Gerber is not offering us an either/or: after all, one can simply hop on the internet and hear an orchestra immediately, 24/7. Rather, this is an alternative way to realise a composer’s imagination; it is also an “alternative” orchestral sound in its own right. If the first movement of the symphony might seem too filmic (unsurprising given Gerber’s background), or even game music-like, to some, there is no doubt that there is much beauty in the second movement, “Quicksilver,” and much skill also. Gerber's music is tonally-based and one could argue that in this second movement we have a digital age Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Gerber also has a nice way of moving swiftly from the quixotic to the reflective seamlessly. An etheric “chorus” joins the “orchestra” in the slow movement, “True Desire”. Mysterious, it leads naturally to a Passacaglia finale, which while returning to the beefier textures of the first movement must be one of the most jovial passacaglias out there, morphing into decidedly filmic (Westerns?) territory at one point. It avoids the tacky or the kitsch, remarkably, to offer a remarkably colorful experience all sewn together by the underlying passacaglia.

The stand-alone piece In Time There Will Be No Time creates a web of strings: two string “choirs” and a string quartet. The piece has something of the feel of a threnody, and the textures are both complex and sophisticated. Spatial effects are effectively used but appear as part of a cogent, considered argument. Musically, this piece is superior to the Symphony No. 10, possibly because the symphony seems to seek to entertain whereas this presents a heartfelt statement.

Finally, three short “piano” works, the first of which, Invention in Three Parts, is Gerber does Bach in 5/8 and with added chromatics. It works, and beautifully; if only the “piano” sounded more like a piano, if you see what I mean. It does rather remind me of some of the settings on digital pianos I have auditioned. The “Ballad” is somewhat jazzy. It moves, which is just as well (electronically generated rubato shouldn’t really be a thing, after all), and there is interest in some of Gerber’s harmonic combinations. “Baroque jazz” might be an apt description of the final e-Toccata (the booklet notes describe it as “jazzy and slightly funky”), and it is the perfect close,

Although this will not appeal to everybody, Gerber’s voice, and the results of his way of working, strike me as remarkably persuasive.

Colin Clarke


home | recordings | compositions | press | services | instruction | articles | studio | biography | credits | links