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JERRY GERBER Virtual Harmonics • Jerry Gerber (syn); Candy Shue (nar) • OTTAVA 15-013 (51:50)

In Virtual Harmonics, composer Jerry Gerber once again creates a world of beauty and musical intelligence from entirely electronic elements. This album includes Gerber’s Ninth Symphony, performed by the composer himself, and full of melodies, textures, and harmonies beyond the reach of most traditional instruments. While Gerber’s use of synthesizers and command of MIDI sequencing are cutting edge, his musical style is rooted in traditional Western harmony and theory. This symphony, for example, has four distinct movements filled with an array of original themes and phrases that build to express new musical thoughts, as clearly defined as any by Haydn.

Gerber’s symphony, which doesn’t seem to have been touched by the “Curse of the Ninth,” begins with an assertive undulating theme, picking up some highly percussive passages and brass-like volleys along the way. The second movement, melodic and yearning, is propelled as though by a beating heart through a series of inversions and expressive arabesques. Each movement is clearly stated, followed by a brief silence, which the composer, like his predecessor Beethoven, considers an essential element of music. Like Beethoven, Gerber introduces the idea of the human voice (though in the third movement, not the fourth as in Beethoven’s work) which continues as a background feature in the final section. What are these digitized voices singing? We certainly can enjoy the ebb and flow of these digital voices without ascribing a literary meaning to them.

The album contains additional new works by Gerber that express both his spirituality and his sense of humor. More than Matter is a short work of exploration on the musical plane, but reminds us that music is more than matter, that our search may reveal a spiritual truth that supersedes the material. The third offering in the album, Lucid: Dream For, lasts barely over two minutes, but etches itself onto memory as narrated with crystal-clear articulation by poet Candy Shue. The text of this work for virtual orchestra is a powerful vignette about a woman deciding whether to enter therapy. “Remember: I’m not paying to listen to your dreams,” the poet’s voice begins. “You’re paying me.” A lively drum-like rhythm accompanies the narrator in a song that can be listened to and interpreted at several levels.

Following a fugal Song of the Universe, the album concludes with Raga, a sparkling tribute to Indian classical music, possibly Gerber’s virtual version of a gat, the final section—fast and rhythmically varied—of the improvisational raga form. This is lighthearted music of good cheer, a fitting conclusion to an album that explores the infinite possibilities of electronic music and demonstrates that the virtual world of music is fully human as well.

Linda Holt

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