Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

Jerry GERBER (b.1951)
The Art of MIDI Sequencing

Symphony #5 (2002) [38.39]: Imagine This [11.54];
Lament [8.22];
Joy of Cannabis [6.12];
Gravity/Zero-Gravity [12.11]
Essay for Virtual Orchestra (2001) [8.21]
Jerry Gerber, sequencer controlled electronic music sampler synthesizers
Notes in English
OTTAVA 03-007 [67.27]

Ottava Records


Comparison Recordings:
Digital Moonscapes, Wendy Carlos, synthesizers - East Side Digital 81542

Thereís a Bird in My Fingerprint, Robert Vassar, synthesizers - Initium 3002

Mr. Gerberís title is somewhat presumptuous for it seeks to give the impression that his is a unique or at least defining capability. In fact I know of at least four others who are doing the same thing with entirely comparable skill in a classical music style and dozens who work in the pop/New Age style. That is my point in reviewing this disk along with two similar comparison recordings. The subject recording and the comparison recordings all have in common that they are produced on computer sequencer controlled electronic music synthesisers. Each is the work of a single person combining the functions of composer and performer. All are presented on "vanity" record labels, that is, the artist owns a piece of the label.

Gerber and Vassar utilize sampler technology, but Carlos matched instrument sounds with constructed digital sounds; by far the most tedious way of doing it, but the end result is virtually the same. What we have here, in other words, is a composer writing the music, performing it and selling the recording. Few middle-persons are involved if any. Carlos certainly has the most visible reputation, and that recording was originally released on CD in the US by a major label. It is now only available on this private label issue. The music on all these disks is, or could be, written down in conventional score and could be performed by real live performers (in Mr. Gerberís case we would also need a sound effects artist), should they care to do so. So, technically speaking this is not electronic music. It is conventionally written music performed utilising recordings of real (or very realistically matched) musical instruments assembled by a computer under the control of a Ďconductorí who is also the composer.

The personalities involved here are certainly diverse. Carlos was a physics major when captured by music, joining the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, and finally producing the outrageously popular LP "Switched on Bach" in 1968. This album arguably began the whole thing as a public idea, utilising the relatively primitive technology of the time. Robert Vassar was born in Idaho and is a retired computer engineer and self-taught musician and Mozart scholar. Like Carlos, Vassar builds his music voice by voice, and his orchestra, like Stravinskyís, tends to be a collection of chamber ensembles with much use of piano. It was Gerberís reference to cannabis in the third movement of his Symphony that suggested to me this comparison with Mr. Vassarís "Morphean Fantasy," one of the selections on the album described above. That derives from dreams occurring during anaesthetised recovery from major surgery, chief among which was the mysterious bird in his fingerprint which gives the album its title. Gerber is a member of the California commercial music industry, working from the Ďorchestral soundí on downwards. If his music sounds like movie music itís probably because heís written a lot of it.

All three of these artists have produced numerous disks of their music; Vassar only two with a third on the way. That Mr. Vassar is a friend of mine is not the only reason I speak well of him. Rather it is that we became friends in part because I admire his music, and that music will certainly stand comparison with the best of them. Carlosís suite of pieces invites comparison with Holstís Planets, but that is unfortunate for here is none of the grandeur, mystery, richness, rhythmic integrity or exquisite tunefulness of Holst. This release does sound sort of like a real symphony orchestra and the music is at times entertaining even if you canít remember a note of it afterwards.

Mr. Gerber is very active in the "San Francisco" music scene and that explains a great deal about him. One musical directory website includes Mr. Gerber not in its "Classical Composer" section, but in the category of "New Music, Film Music, Electronic, Pop, Arranger". Accordingly one is not surprised when the first movement of the his Symphony sounds like StarGate goes Saturday Night Live, but he does have the best string section patch Iíve ever heard - even better than Carlosís. He also has some very fine human voice samples, but virtually everything else sounds fakey, rather like a small electric organ. Lament, which isnít very, features a New Age moonbeam chorus and a few skyrockets fly through the room. The third movement is entitled "Joy of Cannabis", but Mr. Gerber apparently combines meth with his smokes and his cannabis trip sounds like Aaron Copland meets the Chorus line on Broadway. With the fourth movement itís StarGate takes a short trip on the BART or maybe in a fast machine. The Essay is Gerberís best selection on the disk. Except for a few vaguely orchestral episodes itís pure New Age in style, but not spooky enough to be successful in that genre. I think this is not so much crossover music as something that got stuck outside with nowhere to go. In words written in another context by a more distinguished critic (Raymond Tuttle writing in Fanfare) than I, is Gerberís compositional style bland and aimless? Is his sense of form obscure? Are his melodies undistinguished? Or is it only that they sound that way?

In this horse race Vassar is the clear winner, with Carlos not too far behind, even if that isnít what we set out to talk about. Initium CDs are available direct from Initium, 28140 Hop Road, Caldwell, Idaho 83607 USA, (208) 455-8604. The other disks are currently commercially distributed.

Paul Shoemaker

 

 



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