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GERBER Nine Hymns on Spiritual Life. Virtual Concerto for Oboe and Digital Ensemble OTTAVA 21-016 (34:47)

From Cosmic Dust offers two contrasting works by Jerry Gerber, a contemporary American composer who uses computer generated sound files for the instruments and voices in his works. This is the fourth CD of Gerber’s music I’ve reviewed for Fanfare, and it has been a most rewarding experience. In my prior reviews, I praised Gerber’s gifts for melody and colorful, transparent scoring. Gerber composes in a fluent, highly accessible, tuneful and expressive idiom, brimming with vitality and momentum. All of those qualities appear in From Cosmic Dust, which contrasts the choral work Nine Hymns on Spiritual Life with the Virtual Concerto for Oboe and Digital Ensemble. Nine Hymns on Spiritual Life comprise the following movements (the author of the text is listed in parentheses):

Hymn to the Divine (Jerry Gerber)

Desire (Rumi)

This Place (Rumi)

Greed (Rumi)

One Friend (Paramahansa Yogananda)

Remember (Gerber)

When Death Does Come (Gerber)

It’s Always Worse at Night (Gerber)

Thank You Spirit (Gerber)

Gerber effectively varies the performing forces and deployment of them. Techniques include a cappella and choral/orchestral settings, as well as the juxtaposition of sung texts with wordless vocalise. In these computer-generated performances, I find the sound of the chorus quite convincing and idiomatic, the pronunciation less so. I doubt I’d be able to divine, without the aid of the printed texts included in the CD booklet, what the chorus is singing. But the cumulative experience is quite lovely and moving.

The Oboe Concerto is set in three movements in moderate, slow, and fast tempos. The first movement features the ingenious manipulation of a theme introduced at the outset, the basis for writing that celebrates both the oboe’s songful and virtuoso capacities. Gerber juxtaposes both classical and jazz elements, and in winning fashion. The lyricism of the slow-tempo second movement offers hints of the blues. The finale, incorporating synthesizers into the instrumental fabric, has an irresistible techno groove. It’s an invigorating, kaleidoscopic work, teeming with creativity and energy. A wonderful disc, and highly recommended.

Ken Meltzer

5 Stars: Marvelous computer-generated works by Jerry Gerber


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