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HOME & LOVE: In a Disordered World


GERBER, J. Symphony No. 11 for the Virtual Orchestra. Home & Love.1 Body Politics.2 Hymn to the Divine. ● Jerry Gerber (synthesizer, software, signal processing, monitoring): Zebra 2, Dune 3, Yamaha MODX-6, Z3TA-2, FM8, Kontakt 6; Software: Cakewalk Digital Audio Workstation, Acoustica Audio Editor, HOFA CD-Burn DDP Master; Signal Processing: VSL MIR, Ozone 8, IK Multimedia Plate Reverb, Acon Digital Equalization; Monitoring: ADAM S3H Kira Fondse (vocals) Cathy Colman (narration) ● OTTAVA 21-015 (41:30)


 At first glance, this album may take many Fanfare readers by surprise. Created entirely (or, nearly entirely—more on this below) by synthesizers and computers, composer Jerry Gerber has written music of the digital age for a virtual, computerized orchestra. Within such parameters, Gerber is an artist, a pioneer exploring a field within the digital landscape. Gerber turns ones and zeros into sounds, layering and collaging these sounds together to create something that is not altogether the sound of an orchestra, but also isn’t just the bleeps and blips of a computer. I disagree that this music is indistinguishable from the sound of a real, live orchestra, as David Baer claims in his liner notes for the album: “…virtual performances can be created that are indistinguishable from real performances by a top-tier symphony orchestra.” However, as a digitally organized orchestra of sounds both pre-recorded and computer generated, I liked the quirky, ultra digital sounds mixed with the sweep of digitized violins and horns. As I listened to this album, I imagined rows of technicians, plugging away at computers and programs of synthesizer sounds all digitally harmonizing first in a digital space, then in an auditory expression, computer speakers cranked.


Still, this kind of music pales in comparison to the sound of live musicians playing non-digital instruments—however, I think there is something to be said for Gerber’s foresight about the possibilities with digital and computerized sounds. It may not be long now before visual landscapes of films and even actors are completely computerized to a degree of detail that is believable—why wouldn’t the same technology apply to music? Much of pop music relies on some engineering or enhanced sounds to create catchy tunes and instant hits—why wouldn’t we apply these same digital possibilities to classical music?


Even so, I think it would be especially interesting to see this music performed live—analog musicians and a breathing, human chorus alongside synthesizers and amps—as a true synthesis of analog and virtual music. But of course, this might undermine Gerber’s aim to create a symphony for a wholly digital orchestra (and threatens to wander into the niche carved by Mannheim Steamroller).


At least two tracks use human voice that was not pre-recorded. On the title track, Home & Love, a singer (Kira Fondse) performs the piece along with a synthesizer orchestra; and for the track, Body Politics, Cathy Colman reads her prose poem over a percussive synthesizer tune. The final piece, Hymn to the Divine, is a choral piece, which may have worked acappella without the minimal synthesizer sounds, but the chorus is completely virtual. As Baer explains in the liner notes, this piece “uses innovative phrase building to deliver the textual content.” If I understand this correctly, it may mean that Gerber built each phrase, for each part of the chorus, syllable by syllable, collecting and organizing these vocal sounds from several of the sample libraries credited on the album notes: Requiem Pro Choir, Vienna Choir, East West Choir.


Symphony 11 for the Virtual Orchestra is quite intriguing—using the sort of airbrushed and flawless tonalities generated from a collection of computerized sounds—holding the beat and rhythm and general heft of a symphony (all without that crucial human component, however, the breath and fragility of human beings attempting to play different instruments simultaneously as one collective). Overall, I liked what I heard, even after knowing that it was virtual (and later confirmed by highly digital beeps and bloops), and the more that I listened, the more I realized that this music is as much a piece of art as a mosaic or a painting created entirely from tiny dots. Gerber created this entire symphony not simply based on a series of commands through his computer keyboard (as I am while typing this review); but rather, he wrote a score, and culled the particular sounds and the particular colors from a sample library to make that score an auditory experience: a virtual symphony.                    

Jacqueline Kharouf


5 stars - Digitally Rendered Symphony Explores the Possibilities of Classical Music for the Digital Age


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