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

JERRY GERBER Symphony No. 12 for the Virtual Orchestra. Quartet for Virtual Strings • Jerry Gerber • OTTAVA 23-017 (54:15)

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes off, Jerry Gerber puts his own spin on the new procedures in this new release, entitled The Darker Side of Light: his Symphony No. 12, announced by booklet annotator and Fanfare contributor Jacqueline Kharouf as “a synthesis of art and science.” Computing rules, digital sampling, and sound synthesis conspire to create a new type of experience.

Of course, those “rules” have to be generated somewhere, as they were for instance in the stochastic procedures of Iannis Xenakis. But Gerber’s world could hardly be more different. As this 12th Symphony launches with “flutes” and “second violins,” Gerber’s by now familiar sense of tonally-based optimism springs forth, but for how long? Gerber’s 12th turns in on itself in the first movement, finding exploration to be its goal. Motifs seem to seek an unnamed something (such is the way of abstract symphonic thought, after all), but something is clear: Gerber’s own vision. The music is tightly constructed. One has to actively listen to notice that this music is for nonexistent “performers”: the preternatural togetherness of brass en masse comes not from telepathic brotherhood but from algorithms.

Synthesizers (called Dune and Zebra, apparently) join the orchestral tapestry in almost cartoonish fashion in the active second movement. The movements of the symphony here do not have titles (unlike, say, in Gerber’s Symphony No. 10); there are no tempo indications given, just “1st movement,” “2nd movement,” and so on. A sudden interruption in octaves implies that far more profound processes underpin the mayhem. Perhaps this movement encapsulates the disc’s overall title to perfection?

The peaceful third movement builds to a virtual chorus extolling the virtues of living in truth. The text begins with laying out the choice between love and fear; the dark before living in truth takes the listener to the light. There is a lovely sense of stillness at the opening, though, with its subtle dissonances and burnished “double-basses” adding a Mahlerian tinge. The “orchestra” illusion is by now pretty much complete; this could easily be a studio orchestra playing this piece. The sound of the “choir” is remarkably close to that of a real chorus. The finale features “Dune” impersonating a harpsichord, or perhaps more accurately offering a harpsichord-like sound; it is almost, but not quite, that instrument, and I suspect deliberately so. Gerber’s writing can be exultant, bright and breezy, and nothing here exemplifies that more than this finale.

The Quartet for Virtual Strings begins in the arcane key of G♭ Major (computers are hardly going to be intimidated by a sea of flats!). While the music has some Gerber characteristics (motor rhythms driving the music forward, for instance), it also includes a remarkable, pastoral contrast. Perhaps that is placed here, as the second movement is more percussive in nature, with its predominance of pizzicato, a field of sound within which melodies appear and disappear. There is more of a feeling of dance than repose here; the shadow of darkness falls over the third movement, with heavy lower “strings” carrying a gently pulsating beat over which the upper lines sing in a lachrymose dialog, perhaps one of mourning. What is impressive above all is Gerber’s melodic gift; it is just this that sustains the movement so well. The G♭ Major of the first movement is only a temporary visitor to the finale, which shifts quickly to a brighter A Major. Gestures of Rückblick tighten up the structure. Moments of a pastoral nature recur, with almost an English Pastoralism this time.

For all of the monumental moments in Gerber’s symphonic output, it is in this smaller forum of the string quartet that he excels. Together, though, this symphony and this quartet make for a very enjoyable 45 minutes. This is another remarkable achievement from Jerry Gerber.            

Colin Clarke 

Five stars: Together, this symphony and this quartet make for a very enjoyable 45 minutes; a remarkable achievement 


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