Gerber.gifGERBER: Symphony 6; Variations. Electronic realizations by the composer. Ottava 07-009. 51 minutes.

Jerry Gerber’s music is written for “virtual orchestra” and is “realized” rather than performed. Gerber spends a lot of space in the program notes for this disc on the value of the technology that allows composers to hear even works for full orchestra in almost real time, as they are composed. At the end, then, this:

Nevertheless, the age-old artistic problem for composers remains: What do I want to say and what kind of music must I write? This compact disc is a consequence of trying to answer those questions one more time.

Gerber’s answer (from the evidence of this disc) is to write splashy mid-century style music of gestures and themes that remain for the most part undeveloped. The combination of his style and the technology would seem to be ideal for a certain kind of film composition.

Fortunately, for the sake of working musicians, the virtual orchestra doesn’t sound enough like a real orchestra to replace it. On the other hand, film producers looking to cut costs will be all over it.  

15 Responses to “Jerry Gerber”
  1. James Combs says:

    This review left me mildly perplexed, as I have never heard a work from Mr. Gerber. You say he writes mid-century music, splashy? I am guessing you mean he is writing 20th century neo-classical, 12-tone, etc.?

    I would disagree with one thing simply from a review standpoint and that is a realization shouldn’t worry performers that they at risk of imminent replacement, although it sounded slightly sarcastic. I think there will always be a demand for players no matter how far along technology gets. I see two areas of realization: One is the composer who doesn’t have an orchestra to perform his/her works and a composer such as Glass who incorporates realizations for the sake of having more freedom.

  2. Steve Hicken says:

    Thanks for your comment, James.

    On re-reading the review, I note that I did leave an important aspect of the music’s style–it is functionally tonal, and doesn’t stray very far afield.

  3. Jerry Gerber says:

    Mr. Hicken:

    I have no idea what qualifies you to review CDs, but the “review” of my CD, Time Shadows, on Sequenza21 is shameful, to say the least.

    I doubt you listened to the entire CD, and if you did, it is clear the music is simply too abstract and well-composed for you to understand.

    You begin your review by revealing a deep prejudice, perhaps a fear, of electronic music. You express disdain for the virtual orchestra. If you have such feelings about the medium, would it not be more ethical to decline to review music that you already have judged negatively because of the medium of realization? What you reveal is less about my work and more about your lack of integrity by dismissing a medium you don’t have appreciation or understanding of and then attempting to write about! That’s not criticism, that’s not a review, that is ignorant, uninformed opinion, of no intellectual or artistic value to anyone. I’ve had reviews of my work that are insightful, intelligent and thoughtful–and critical at the same time. Your review is none of these things.

    You also stated that my music has little development. Either you’re a poor, distracted listener of music or simply too intellectually limited to recognize the rich motivic, melodic and harmonic developmental complexity of my work. My music is quite well developed from a compositional aspect, irregardless of the medium I choose to realize it in. Your comments are more a reflection of your listening skills than lack of compositional development on my part.

    It is clear you were in over your head in attempting to review Time Shadows. I hope next time you’ll have the sensitivity and awareness to decline to review something you’ve already dismissed because of the medium of realization, a medium with expressive power that artistic conservatives like yourself can’t grasp.

    If it is your motivation is try and discourage gifted and skilled musicians from realizing their creative and artistic potential, I must tell you it won’t work with me. I am working on my 10th CD and totally committed to music composition and electronic music production; you won’t silence me and, I hope, that you will fail to discourage and silence others who are unfortunate enough to have to suffer your opinions publicly.

    As John Adams (the composer, not the President) once said:

    Those who can do
    Those who can’t teach
    Those who can’t teach criticize
    and those who can’t criticize become professional critics


    Jerry Gerber

  4. david toub says:

    Two comments:

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with James about virtual instruments. For those of us (eg, 99% of the new music community) who don’t have live musicians banging down our doors, this is the only way we have to get our stuff out there and heard. And folks like Steve Layton have done wonders with virtual instruments, IMHO.

    2. I don’t mean to not let Steve Hicken speak for himself, but as someone who also reviews CDs here, I would suggest to Mr. Gerber that he be happy someone reviewed his music at all, even if it is a flawed review in his opinion. I’ve had great reviews and crappy reviews of my music, and the crappy ones were often by folks who were either not fans of postminimalist music or who just didn’t know what the hell they were doing. However, I’m happy that someone took the time to listen to my recording and write down his or her thoughts. While I would have loved it if those negative reviews had been positive ones, it’s still better than having dead bandwidth. So rather than getting royally perturbed, be happy Steve took the time to post something about your music and leave it at that. Just my $0.02.

  5. Steve Hicken says:

    I believe that my main job as a reviewer of new music is to describe the music at hand in such a fashion as to enable the consumer to decide whether or not to buy the disc. Any evaluative comments are extra. I don’t care that much whether a critic likes the music and I don’t expect anybody to care whether or not I like something.

    If I came up short in this review, I apologize to Mr. Berber and to readers, and I’ll expand a little. The music sounds like mid-20th century American symphonic style–expanded tonality, active rhythms, clear melodic profiles, etc. The discourse seems more conversational than developmental, for what that’s worth. The orchestration is pretty conventional, and played electronically.

    Thanks to everyone for your comments.

  6. James Combs says:

    Negative reviews are the new flattering reviews
    Lashing back is the new restraint
    (refer to “Haunted” – chapter “slumming” by Chuck Palahniuk)
    (further refer to Chuck Palahniuk’s online open letter in response to Laura Miller’s review of “Diary”)

  7. James Combs says:

    BTW: The reviewer does mention that the said works would work well in certain films. There is usually a portion of a review worth quoting. Try getting panned because a reviewer didn’t like your picture. Happened to me, called me “hideous” and said my strings were too much in his face.

  8. Wow. I agree with David Toub’s evaluation but I think he was way too restrained. My reaction to your reaction, Mr. Gerber, is to quote the famous Hollywood philosopher Warren Oates who, in a famous scene from the movie “Stripes,” famously said “Lighten up, Francis.”

    I haven’t read or heard such a hilarious piece of pompous self-importance since my days at the Peabody Conservatory composition seminars. The fact that any of us can get anybody outside our families to say something, anything, in public about what any of us does is a miracle, as far as I’m concerned.

    If the worst review you ever get is that your gestures and themes remain undeveloped, I congratulate you. I think your hammer successfully killed this fly.

  9. Frank says:

    I have heard several CDs by Jerry Gerber, he is without doubt one fine composer. I somewhat agree with Mr. Gerber in his comments that if a writer/critic is predisposed to prejudice that they should pass on the doing the review….why not have someone else at Sequenza revisit with the Mr. Gerber’s new CD and let’s hear what they might have to say.

  10. Jerry Bowles says:

    We’re reviewed Mr. Gerber’s CDs in the past and, thus far, S21 reviewers are in complete agreement in re artistic merit. Steve is, if anything, more charitable than previous reviews. Alas, we are all misunderstood geniuses in our way.

  11. Jerry Gerber says:

    In response to Mr. Bowles:

    To set the record straight, Sequenza21 has reviewed only two of my ten CDs. Mr. Bowles gives the exaggerated impression that there were more reviews than that when he states that “S21 reviewers are in complete agreement”. But he is absolutely correct in that both reviewers expressed a clear disdain for electronic music and/or sample-based music and focused much of their passivity and negative energy on that fact alone. It is especially odd because when I sent Time Shadows (newest recording) to Mr. Bowles (had to send it twice as he said he lost the first copy) I asked him to give it to a reviewer who is not biased against the use of digital instrumentation in long-form instrumental music, which obviously he didn’t do. Being predisposed against the medium of expression should immediately cause one to be suspect as to the value of the review and/or criticism.

    I know music reviewers who, if they don’t like a CD they choose not to publicly review it. I had a reviewer who over time reviewed three of my CDs very positively, the same person declined to review a fourth CD I produced because he didn’t like the new direction I had taken. This is called integrity and is sadly in short-supply.

    Here is an example of a review in which the writer (whom I have no personal relationship with and have never met) actually does listen deeply to my music, has the writing talent to write about music in an insightful and intelligent manner, and doesn’t waste the reader’s time condemning electronic instruments and the digital medium:

    The two S21 reviewers Bowles is referring to haven’t accepted that music with depth, originality and mature craft can, and is, being produced in the electronic medium. This new kind of artistic conservatism should be looked at with skepticism. We are not all “misunderstood geniuses” as Mr. Bowles asserts. There are many, particularly in the music field, who pride themselves on being non-conformists and rebels when the reality is anything but that as they continue to run with the pack and react with fear or bias against new ways of doing things. Anything that deviates from a myopic and circumscribed cultural ideal is denounced as superficial in this kind of evaluation of artistic merit, or, as they’re so fond of calling it, “movie music”, which is the intellectually lazy way of stating that the music in question doesn’t fit into the smallest possible definition of what music designed to be actually listened to is all about. Concert music becomes the ideal, the medium of expression by which all others should be compared with, but their ideal is confused: The multi-timbral/complex composition/orchestration and formal development achieved in great symphonic writing is a high musical/aural standard indeed, but it is the music itself that is the point, not the concert hall which is decidedly not the only environment in which complex, multi-timbral music can or should exist in. I cannot help chuckling when I think that these are the reviewers who, 150 years ago, would come across a photographer taking a picture of the Grand Canyon and they’d immediately question why he wasn’t painting it.

    Finally, a serious CD review is always generous, in the sense that the reviewer is willing to be subjectively given over to the art and can dive into its complexity, meaning and beauty, assuming the composer was skilled enough to put it there. If the reviewer can’t give themselves over in this primal, yet fully open way, if the reviewer cannot get into the “flow of listening” to that music, the music won’t reveal its art to that person, nor will the reviewer be able to offer any useful or intelligent criticism. Apparently, some S21 reviewers don’t understand this and feel justified in reviewing music they either don’t like or that calls up their own unexamined bias, which they then pass on, quite ungenerously, to their reader.


    Jerry Gerber

  12. paul bailey says:

    mr. gerber,

    i do, i teach, and i criticize.

    thou doth protest too much…

    paul bailey

  13. C. U. Farley says:

    Jerry, I\’m tempted to say that you\’re a self-absorbed blowhard. But, I don\’t know you so I\’ll just say that TO ME you sound like a self-absorbed blowhard. I PERSONALLY find your music to be derivative, trite and finally…boring. Now, of course, since I don\’t like your \”music\”, you will state that I am deficient in some way because I can\’t comprehend the obvious beauty of your hackneyed bilge. Give it a rest, man. Take a look at your own responses to ANY criticism and try to realize how much you sound like some sort of dogmatic religious fanatic.

    \”Anyone who doesn\’t like my music is wrong and by definition is BAD, and worthy of my abuse.\” How can you expect to create anything of beauty with such a closed mind??????

    Oh, by the way, you\’re not one of those Selfologists are you????

    Yours in Sanity,

    C. U. Farley

  14. C. U. Farley says:


    Are you for real????? I quote:

    1. \\\”The two S21 reviewers Bowles is referring to haven’t accepted that music with depth, originality and mature craft can, and is, being produced in the electronic medium.\\\”
    Well, maybe this \\\”deep mature original music\\\” is being produced by someone somewhere in the electronic medium, BUT NOT NECESSARILY BY YOU….

    2. \\\”Either you’re a poor, distracted listener of music or simply too intellectually limited to recognize the rich motivic, melodic and harmonic developmental complexity of my work. My music is quite well developed from a compositional aspect,…\\\”
    Right…You\\\’re great. All we have to do is just ask you. That should prove it……;} What a truly irrational response to fairly mild criticism. Apparently, you can\\\’t take ANY criticism.

    And 3. \\\”I doubt you listened to the entire CD, and if you did, it is clear the music is simply too abstract and well-composed for you to understand.\\\”
    I REPEAT: Are you for real????? If someone doesn\\\’t like your \\\”creative efforts\\\” then they just don\\\’t get it?????? Time to grow up, bud.

    Thanks for restoring my faith in the depths of lameness that can be achieved by an overblown, underpowered ego.

    Happiness in the face of adversity,

    C. U. Farley

  15. C. U. Farley says:

    Like, Man…

    Dig it, like when you say, \\\”There are many, particularly in the music field, who pride themselves on being non-conformists and rebels,\\\” you sound as if you consider your own square self to be among these cats & kittens of the future. Man, I hate to be the deliverer of bum drawings, but your sh*t is not burgeoning. Not in the futurity & fecundity of the infinite newness of beat and beyond-beat sound edifications, nor in the celestial imaginings of Brother David Gardner…and like, you CERTAINLY do not present as non-conformist or rebellious…

    Excitement to pause and ruminate on the words of St. Leonard of Bruce who said, \\\”…..Like, a horn is like to blow, man…\\\”

    Questing for that melodic filter,
    C. U. Farley

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