Gelbart’s Poems by Alpha

The overflowing creativity of Adi Gelbart needs more than one outlet. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Gelbart is skilled on the saxophone, bass clarinet, and harpsichord. In addition to his retrofuturistic solo performances, Gelbart the composer has crafted string quartets of the highest caliber in Poems by Alpha. His work The Portal Finally for a fifteen-piece big band showcases his profound knowledge of jazz music. As a filmmaker, Gelbart’s portfolio boasts of various animated ranging films from narrative to entirely abstract. And to cap it all, in 2018, Adi Gelbart published his debut novel, Egglike.

Gelbart tells stories; almost all of his works have a narrative framework. A dive into his oeuvre uncovers bizarre, yet wholly consistent worlds. A surrealist mirror-universe of sound, imagery, and words that always strives to fuse the accessible with the complex. Musically, Gelbart feels at home with jazz, library music, industrial, musique concrète, contemporary music, and electronica. He finds joy in the manipulation of symbols and the decontextualization of pop culture iconography.

Born in Tel-Aviv, Gelbart has been living and working in Berlin for the past eighteen years. His music appeared on various record labels, including Felix Kubin’s Gagarin Records.


One of the protagonists in Gelbart’s novel Egglike is the sentient computer, Alpha, who writes poems in secrecy. Alpha is not a typical artificial intelligent machine. He does not try to imitate humans and pass for a human poet. He is a machine and makes no apologies for it. Consequently, his poems have little that is human about them. Alpha doesn’t care what sense of meaning or significance we ascribe to the poems. From a human perspective, he fails miserably at the task of being poetic. That his poetry is nevertheless touching and oddly profound, can be attributed to the music.

The musical and emotional richness of Adi Gelbart’s string quartets is remarkable. At times, his compositions are lyrical and gentle, while at other moments, they are raw and exhilarating. Some parts evoke the percussive roughness of the great Béla Bartók’s string quartets, and still elsewhere, parallels to Schönberg’s romantic work can be drawn. While the string instruments intersect in complex harmonies, Alpha the computer is singing about liquid bunnies, popcorn accidents, and like-minded pasta. This absurd humor, coupled with musical depth, creates a duality that is impossible to resist.

There are worlds between Gelbart’s electronic solo program and Poems by Alpha. And yet, these projects share his artistic approach and bear his unmistakable signature—they both blend the challenging with the entertaining. By combining artfully crafted compositions with absurd computer lyrics, Gelbart makes Poems by Alpha immune to kitsch. But he goes even further, nodding in the direction of math rock and post punk in Autographed Egg, with Alpha brilliantly assuming the role of the frontman. The harmony of the exceedingly romantic Orange Loops manages to hit just the right amount of friction. Four Years allows the spaces between the notes to breathe so that we never doubt for a second that Alpha is emotionally gifted. Poems by Alpha is nothing less than the quintessence of Adi Gelbart’s art.

When the idea for this project came about, the development of artificial intelligence as a writing tool was still in its infancy. Today, in the spring of 2023, some politicians have already had speeches written by ChatGPT. Against this background, Poems by Alpha satirically anticipates what will soon overwhelm us: machines that make art.