Gerhard Gruber is an Austrian composer and piano player. As accompanist for silent movies he has become the leading authority in Austria since 1988.
He has performed for more than 450 different films (Viennale 1999-2004, Tokyo 2006/ 2007/ 2008, Hobart/ Australia, Rotorua/ New Zealand 2008, Cineconcerts Bordeaux 2005, Motovun Filmfestival 2007, Munich, Hamburg, Diagonale).
As a basic principle he appreciates improvisation for his work, which he regards as best way of a direct and always new dialogue between the events on the screen, the music and the audience.
So no performance resembles the others. Gerhard Gruber likes it to be enticed by the films again and again and to pass on these feelings to the audience.
Cit.: ´For me the feeling of being amidst the events of a film story has been undescribable exciting from the first moment and is unchanged until today. This guarantees the liveliness and vibrancy of each performance.
It is always the unity of film, music and audience. And thus each presentation is able to be a special experience.`
Since 1983 Gerhard Gruber is working and performing as a composer and musician for theatre.
Author ILSE AICHINGER about Gerhard Gruber:
Blue-Toned Silent Film Dreams
He doesn’t wear a Viennese medal of honor, nor does he create a commotion in the parliament and cause guessing games like Michael Jackson. Gerhard Gruber, composer and musician (“the piano player” as I know him), comes from the barren landscape of
the Muehlviertel. He improvises on the piano to the silent films in the triangle that I often move in: between the Metro-Kino, the Breitenseer Lichtspiele, and the Filmmuseum—not Bermuda, but still a place where you can safely disappear.
He is the one who first makes each film possible and, at the same time, unnecessary. Those who have seen his hands move on the illuminated keys might even risk forgetting Chaplin to boost their memory of him. In letting yourself go, should you ask how much you have to let go? For Gerhard Gruber that isn’t relevant. Composing is an intellectual act. As he explains, improvisation is an act of love. “It wouldn’t surprise me if my playing changed the film.” And would this man—someone who knows how much the pictures have lost through dialogue cinema—sign a “petition against the talkies”?
“Gruber’s form of modesty is likewise his greatness,” said Alexander Horwath (of the Austrian Filmmuseum). “The particular situation of silent film music, in which one part is ‘dead’ (which means old and stored on celluloid) and the other part ‘living’ (alive and capable of acting), paradoxically demands a musician who is not satisfied with this situation (with his or her own ‘advantage’), who wants to make the ‘dead’ part just as much alive as he or she is.”
“I am still breathing the air, but I don’t know what I should do with it,” stated E. M. Cioran. Those who listen to Gerhard Gruber play the piano can once again trust their own breath.
And Der Typ vom Grab nebenan (The guy in the next grave) (today at 6 p.m. in Cine-Kino)? You should help him out of there and quickly bring him, together with the others in danger of apparent death, to Breitensee, to Gerhard Gruber.
First published in: Die Presse, 12 March 2005, as “Der Filmerzieher.”
Translated by Lisa Rosenblatt.
ALEXANDER HORWATH, director of the Austrian Filmmuseum, about Gerhard Grubers music for silent movies:
… Music for silent movies needs a genuine musical partner of the film. The Austrian composer and (improvisation) musician Gerhard Gruber is one of very much, very few representatives of the profession, who meets this only apparently modest, actually however highest requirement. He is the partner par excellence.
The particular situation of silent film music, in which one part is ‘dead’ (which means old and stored on celluloid) and the other part ‘living’ (alive and capable of acting), paradoxically demands a musician who is not satisfied with this situation (with his or her own ‘advantage’), who wants to make the ‘dead’ part just as much alive as he or she is.
Grubers form of modesty is likewise his greatness; because it needs size to subordinate oneself as creative and idea-rich musician to an “uncommon text”.
Silent movie music in the sense Grubers is neither an exaggeration of the film, nor the “digestible making” of an “old-fashionable” artifact, neither a vanity nor another simplification of the existing work. It is always a partnership suggestion; in a partnership, which becomes never boring as it is guaranteed. An “open relationship” including intimate bond of trust.
Actor HERBERT FUX about Gerhard Gruber:
Each time I am surprised how sensitive Gerhard Gruber accompanies silent movies on the piano. How self-evident he finds appropriate increase and decay for all the changing screen emotions – silent movie and accompaniment as a unique adventure.