The last time I conversed with Jerry Holtz, I was still learning. Giving me advice for some simple computer animation, he sent me a video of minimalistic electronic animation from the nineties, explaining it as an example of “doing a lot with a little”. It was an eclectic form of advice, and I rejected attempting to emulate its methods at first before eventually aquiescing. Most of my friends were telling me what I wanted to hear, but Jerry told me what I needed to hear. A true artist, he understood the postmodern situation of art, a world where everything feel’s possible, but also passable, accomplished. Jerry ameliorated this by tapping into the human, taking the already-been-done, and showing that there always lay a new possibility in the detritus of the past. Wringing forgotten works of the past into absurd, humorous and often poignant forms, few understood making a lot from a little better than he.
At age fourteen, when he released his first album, Jerry already had a popular youtube channel, an affiliation with an accomplished online sketch group and a welcome place in the emerging community on an Internet-based music imprint. He was constantly promising, someone who always seemed to be poised to be putting his best work still ahead of him.
To see that potential never truly met is a tragedy.
I first met Jerry in a summer class program in the summer after the third grade. We were both the kinds of odd kids who were always tossed between the gifted and remedial classes, and we clumped together in our week long game making and poem writing courses. I could impress him by rudimentarily and scrappily making my own graphics in the class, against the suggestion of the teachers. He charmed me by making a game about a hamburger. We decided to stay in touch afterwards, albeit we didn’t make very many concerted efforts. We both continued to make games, and while mine remained rudimentary and abandoned, he soon became a very competent programmer for his age, even getting a short game published on an amateur game website.
Our friendship didn’t really grow until we both became acquainted with the idea of becoming artists, synthesizing our interests in technology, gaming, animation, music and narrative together. I can remember countless nights of which we spent the entire duration focused on projects imagined minutes before attempting, and often forgotten moments later. While we were making them, they were our one and only focus, occasionally halting only for sleep or nourishment. Jerry and I recorded absurd new-agey songs out of vacation field recordings, created gritty, bizarre polyrhythms out of analog synthesizers and the sound of especially tonal lawn ornaments, edited together entire music videos and then deemed them unacceptable, and created bizarre, psychedelic short form video games. In every case, my friend’s resourcefulness took me aback. While not traditionally skilled as a musician, Jerry had a knack for melody, harmony and pacing that served him well both as a video and music creator. He could warp through the scrappy programs he chose to use with ease, and this talent extended itself to his mastery of his synthesizers. He was a passionate person. An expert of almost everything he put work into. How could I not be flattered when he wanted to stay up until four in the morning making sure a bass sounded perfect? How could I not enjoy listening to our work fifteen times in a row, just because we felt so accomplished.
Jerry was also the only friend I can ever remember going on walks with. The paths were unspectacular, suburban sprawls outside of our houses. The subtexts muddy, if even present. He or I or both of us would carry a portable microphone, though we’d seldom ever make use of our recordings. Mostly we just spoke, as candidly as we could, about our current situations. Jerry never told me everything about his life. Knowing that I wouldn’t condone his lifestyle, he seldom discussed his marijuana habit around me, or his dip into designer drugs, allegedly to enhance his creativity. He told me about his gripes with his family. His fluctuating social life. Why his next album would be better than the last one.
I almost knew my friend better when we weren’t in person, though. While our own association with each other would fluctuate, sometimes leading one or the other to assume tension, we still found ourselves often bound together in our creative works. In June of 2010, we released an album credited to both of us, as well as Jerry’s friend Gammon, but Jerry’s work on the album, staggeringly working to maintain both a conceptual continuity and a logical musical flow, formed a powerful artistic statement from someone who was too young to drive. For me, Jerry’s talent was clearest most in my own tracks. Rudimentary experiments that he had managed to craft into highly competent, self-sufficient pieces. I would often introduce Jerry to things, and in a week, he would be better at them than me. Eleven months my junior, he remained a natural mentor.
The last time I conversed with Jerry, he was critiquing me, telling me videos that I had just made were wasting their potential. He was right, but he wasn’t saying what I wanted to hear obviously. Jerry’s misgivings were anchored with knowhow, though.When he was dissatisfied with your work, he didn’t just have a complaint, he had an alternative. He was usually right, too.
Perhaps I am putting too much emphasis on the art over the man. After all, Jerry’s music and videos will live on indefinitely on the internet, where they will surely continue to be enjoyed by the departed’s hundreds of enthusiasts, but Jerry’s art truly was an extension of his personality. A complicated, fully formed portrait of someone whose potential was met by few, if any I’ve ever known. Jerry’s art was not always supported by his family, yet it was proliferated throughout his teen years with an incredible speed and quality, always developing towards new platitudes, and fearing stagnancy over all else. When I told my friend Nick that Jerry had passed, he had similar regrets. Nick had been developing digital synthesizers for Jerry, programming them in Java. Nick had designed the art for Jerry’s album IFSOL, and along with myself and the departed talent had planned to create a massive, ambitious game together. Both of us were taken aback by all the work that will remain unfinished. The potential never to be met. Someone whose humanity emerged in every ounce of work he did. He still feels alive to me in this work, deliberate and clever, how could he be anywhere but in my headphones, arranging those notes, balancing the equalization, syncopating the beats.
I think I’ve put enough words into this man’s mouth for now, many, I’m sure, he wouldn’t have dared say. I haven’t much else to do now, but implore that whoever reads this can learn to appreciate the compassionate, complicated, talented human being that we have lost. If you haven’t listened to Mr. Holtz’s music, please do. From his first published work, 2009’s Dinosaur DJ Set to 2014’s Oran.gy, released this summer, he was a formidable mind when working in the serious and humorous, and especially the realm in between. It was that realm, perhaps, that Jerry knew best. Finding the humor and joy in often bleak situations, and finding the darkness in seemingly innocuous settings.An incredible mentor, artist and friend, he taught me what it meant to do a lot with a little, and for that, I will always be in his debt.
Rest in Peace.