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JERRY GERBER Home & Love, Symphony No. 11, Home & Love, Body Politics, Hymn to the Divine, Jerry Gerber (comp); Kira Fonse (voc); Cathy Colman (nar), OTTAVA 21-015 (41:32)

Will digital music on virtual instruments replace the human-produced sounds we know and love so well? Probably not entirely. But that is not to dismiss the creative minds producing classical music through the use of computer-based media. Among the leading voices to hear, consider and enjoy is Jerry Gerber, a composer with a traditional classical education but a passion for employing the latest digital tools to create thought-provoking music for the 21st century. This is especially evident in Gerber’s latest album, Home and Love, which contains his Symphony No. 11. While Gerber’s instruments may register sounds similar to those of the classical orchestra or jazz band (I could swear there was a sax in movement three), they are in fact MIDI system instruments with distinctive properties and individual timbres. This is a relatively new way of creating (or enabling the creation of) music, but the result is a supplement rather than a substitute for more familiar musical tropes.

Gerber is no novice to the world of digital music. The Californian has produced more than a dozen albums and has a strong track record as a composer for films, television and computer games. He has been interested in and involved with MIDI sequencing for nearly 40 years. His constant exploration of new musical pathways, combined with curiosity and creativity, has led to the production of this new album with its fresh and innovative sound.

Possibly the major influence on the centerpiece of this album, the 11th symphony, is digital film music. But given the composer’s strong background in this field, he may be as much an influencer as he is the influenced. The first movement contains some lovely thematic material that immediately engages the listener, but there is just enough of the old development models (e.g., sonata form) to provide familiarity and stability. One can readily imagine a Disney film or a ballet unfolding as this music advances the action and moves the cinematography (or dance routines) along. The listener’s attention is engaged by a pulsating rhythm, but within a single, nearly 10-minute-long movement, the composer also weaves a melancholy passage worthy of Mahler. Gerber is nothing if not resourceful and able to create unexpected effects that contribute to the overall vitality of the composition. The second movement is also bright and lively, with an array of high and low MIDI instruments creating musical textures reminiscent of the harp, plucked guitar strings, and zither. The movement snakes through a variety of moods, ending with a flurry of fanfares from a brass-less brass section. Following a tender third movement, soothed by waves of comforting sound, the work concludes in a grand style, perhaps a little too grandiose for my taste, but definitely within the scope of a traditional classical work, full of energy and interest.

Three vocal works conclude the album: “Home and Love,” sung by Kira Fonse with words by Robert William Service, better known as the Bard of the Yukon and poet of “The Cremation of Sam McGee;” “Body Politics,” written and narrated by Cathy Colman; and “Hymn to the Divine,” words by Jerry Gerber. Regarding the latter, it would be best to let the composer describe the setting, which he does on his website jerrygerber.com : “This piece was composed and sequenced into a computer (A DAW, or digital audio workstation) and the choir is from a ‘sample library,’ which is essentially many thousands of recordings of professional singers singing various syllables, vowels, consonances, siblances and plosives. The composer chooses which samples will sing which words by typing text into a ‘word builder,’ which uses its own programming language to arrive at a reasonably close approximation of how human singers would pronounce the words.” Like many readers of this review, I may not completely understand “MIDI-speak,” but I know good, honest music when I hear it. This album uses the new technology to express traditional musical values and reminds us that the human element of music will never be lost.

Linda Holt


4 Stars – Good, honest music: Home and Love offers listenable compositions by Jerry Gerber including his Symphony No. 11, created with MIDI instruments and digital technology.


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