MP3 Jerry Gerber - The Art of MIDI Sequencing
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5 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Contemporary, ELECTRONIC: Virtual Orchestra
The Art of MIDI Sequencing
It's a birthday party! And Jerry Gerber is celebrating with a grand tribute, his Symphony No. 5.
Twenty years ago, a technology was born that forever changed music-making. The collective labor of a worldwide group of composers, musicians, and musical instrument makers, MIDI-the Musical Instrument Digital Interface-was delivered as a small connector and a modest protocol that for the first time let electronic instruments talk with each other.
So is it trivial to fete a technology? Incongruous to honor it with a sweeping symphony? Not at all. Both tech and tune are fruits of the 20th Century come to maturity in the 21st: Gerber's Symphony reveals an eclectic strength of purpose, the merging of serialism's tone rows with a love of textures, woven with hints of world music and a romanticism come home from long exile. Likewise, MIDI has grown from an optional accessory to encompass the powerful interaction of instruments, computers, hardware, software, and the composers themselves.
With his four-movement Symphony No. 5, Gerber demonstrates the maturity of both music and MIDI with clarity and passion. In his previous recording, Moon Festival, a live voice joined his virtual orchestra-but here he uses not only a virtual orchestra but also merges with it virtual choruses and electronic effects.
Electronic effects in a symphony? Yes, even for purists. From rumbles and crashes in The X-Files, back through Respighi's 78rpm nightingale in Pines of Rome, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture canons, Beethoven's virtual thunderstorm in the Pastorale Symphony, Mozart's music boxes, to Vivaldi's violin-imitated birds in The Four Seasons, effects have sounded.
But it's ultimately the music that matters, and this is no symphonic pretension splashed down to promote a technological thesis or klangfarben Happy Birthday. The proof? The Symphony and the Essay for Virtual Orchestra are skillfully written, rich, emotional, and thoroughly playable music, created in full score and ready to perform.
Imagine This!, the symphony's first movement, opens with a broad statement in brass led by a vocal shout. More voices (from no less than eight unique choruses) rise and fall inside the spacious melodic architecture, where chordal leaps and a dark modal character suggest the 19th Century central Europe of Dvorák. The melody develops and wanders through hints of other world cultures-even American ballet music-then explores textural shifts, returns to the familiar, and resolves quietly.
The second movement, a Lament, holds onto the melodic character of the first, and is a study in texture, but more than that-as Gerber says, it is "a lament on life itself." Comforting in sound, its call-and-response winds and broken string melodies rock forward with gentle contemplation rather than mourning or dreariness, ending on the affirmation of a major chord.
Leaping from a bright fanfare and echoing woodwinds, Joy of Cannabis breaks loose from the Lament in a pure 9/8 scherzo in the heritage of Beethoven and Shostakovich-rollicking and devious, but still reaching for the broad melodies that characterize the entire symphony.
The symphony's masterpiece is Gravity/Zero-Gravity, a coloristic chronicle based on Gerber's own "Twelve Principles of Integrated Serial Writing." These principles are a kinder, gentler rethinking of the strict European rules for the placement of rows of tones inside melodies and harmonies. A set of thought experiments more than rigid requirements, his principles develop from the central idea that theory serves art, and not the reverse. The fluid row model of this final movement pays homage to Alban Berg's grand opera Lulu, and then steps out into a different world of driving rhythm, deep breathing, and finally (after reflection on the symphony's other themes) concludes with a brief dance and exultant shout.
At this point in history, when even the household robot idles somewhere over the horizon, a virtual orchestra is alive and breathing, complete with performance sensitivity and true instrumental colors. Of course, a glance at Gerber's hardware and software reveals that The Art of MIDI Sequencing is more than picking up a baton; under Gerber's artful hands, this software re-animates the individual note samples-recorded by several dozen different artists for a dozen sample libraries-into an orchestra again.
The Symphony and the Essay for Virtual Orchestra make up a complementary birthday pair for MIDI. A happy birthday, indeed!
Jerry Gerber-composition, orchestration, midi programming, mixing, mastering
Dennis Bathory-Kitsz-liner notes
Martha Murray Design-graphic design
Skye Leith/SIS-cover art
in partnership with CDbaby
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