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Composer Steven R. Gerber - A Conversation with Bruce Duffie

We got together in March of 2003, when he was in suburban Chicago for a performance of one of his works, and dove right into the conversation . . . . . . . . .

DUFFIE: You're in Chicago to hear a performance of your work by the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra. Is it a pleasure or a burden to go around the world listening to your music?

GERBER: Oh, it's a pleasure, absolutely nothing but a pleasure!

DUFFIE: [With a gentle nudge] Always?

GERBER: [Laughs] I can't really remember the last time I had a performance so bad that it was a burden. So, I would say it's almost always a pleasure, yes.

DUFFIE: When you get to an orchestra, they've obviously rehearsed the piece at least a little bit. Do you find that you need to do much coaching, or very little coaching, or no coaching at all?

[read complete interview]

Interview with 21st Century Music: Food for Thought with Steven Gerber

DELLAIRA: Is it true that you may well be the most performed American composer in Russia?

GERBER: Well, I may have been, but I haven't been going that much recently.

DELLAIRA: How did that all come about? It's a rather strange distinction for an American composer.

GERBER: Right. My career there started completely by accident and the really odd thing is that my symphony, which a lot people think sounds very Russian, was written before I had the slightest inkling I would ever go. I suppose it was influenced by the fact that I'd been listening to and studying a lot of Shostakovich. I certainly had no idea I would ever go to Russia. My father was born in Russia -- in what is now the Ukraine -- and just by chance in 1990 I met a second cousin of mine who's a Russian émigré and had been the executive director of the opera and ballet house in Kishinev, the capitol of Moldova. He'd been in this country for many years but we'd never met and he was very excited to find out that he had a cousin who was a composer. When that happened he arranged a tour for me in the Soviet Union in October of 1990. The music was a success and he already had a lot of contacts from his days there, and he made a lot more.

[read complete interview at 21st Century Music website (PDF)]

"Roads Taken & Not Taken", by Steven Gerber for Haverford College News
I entered Haverford in September, 1965, a few weeks before my seventeenth birthday. My main interests were music and literature. In high school I had written some poetry and music, and while my greatest love was music, it didn't occur to me to be a music major, since I didn't yet think of myself as a composer and didn't envisage any other kind of career in music. If asked, I would probably have said I would major in philosophy. ...
[read complete essay at Haverford College News website]

Interview with Sequenza21
S21: You are a remarkably prolific composer and have created works in a wide variety of forms—orchestral, chamber, choral, solo. Do you prefer one form over another?

SG: For a long time I preferred to write solo, vocal, or chamber works and didn't expect to write much for orchestra. When I began my Symphony in 1988, at the age of 40, I had written only one previous work for orchestra, some settings of Wallace Stevens for soprano and orchestra, which were still unplayed. (I had to wait nearly 15 years for them to be performed; oddly enough they were given two performances in Ukraine during the same year with two different orchestras, singers, and conductors.) I had no idea when I would hear the Symphony, or my next work, a Serenade for Strings, but I got lucky very soon after they were finished and they were both played a lot...
[read complete interview at Sequenza21 website]

Essay on Orchestation, by Steven Gerber for New Music Box
My approach to orchestration is traditional, in that while I don't think of it as merely arranging pre-existing material, I also don't think of color, of sheer orchestral sound, as primary. Most of the standard repertoire—even The Rite of Spring, in spite of its astounding use of orchestral color—sounds good on the piano, and this kind of orchestration can to some extent be considered separately from the music. Up until the second half of the twentieth century, when color became the main focus for many composers, it was only the rare piece, such as the third of Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 16 or the beginning of Das Rheingold in which orchestration and composition were totally inseparable and a piano rendition therefore meaningless. Still, orchestration should always be an integral part of a composition, not just something applied to already written music...
[read complete essay at New Music Box website]

Keeping America Real: Essay on Steven Gerber by Robert Reilly
Many people see America as the new Rome. Americans are builders and organizers, practical people who, when in need of culture, borrow from Europe-just as Rome borrowed from Greece. Of course, there is truth in this comparison, but it has its limits. It is precisely the practical nature of the American people that insulated the United States from the ideological ravages of Europe and made the continuation of art possible here...
[read a short version of the essay here. also, the complete original essay has been published in the book
"Surprised by Beauty: A Listener's Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music" by Robert Reilly. View at amazon.com]

Steven R. Gerber Steven R. Gerber