Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Original Musical Thinker & Tinkerer

Influenced by minimalist composer Terry Riley's aleatoric work In C, which focused on musical patterns and offsets in time, Steve Reich started experimenting in the same way with tape recordings of the spoken word. His earlier works focused on the twelve-tone system but the emphasis of the studies revolved around the rhythmic aspects of the composition rather than that of the melodic. He became interested in taking segments of speeches, repeating them in similar fashion to a canon, playing them in and out of phase, then cutting segments of the speech out and rearranging them in a different order.

The piece Violin Phase is a musical study of this nature but rather than just going in and out of phase, the performer is pre-recorded and then plays along with himself in the studio, altering the musical phrase after a certain number of bars until near the end of the composition when the violinist finds himself playing back in unison with himself again.

In the early '70s, Steve Reich became fascinated with the study of drumming styles of the Ewe people in Ghana and shortly thereafter, the Balinese Gamelan Semar Pegulingan and Gamelan Gambang. You can hear the Indonesian percussion influences in his work Music For A Large Ensemble very clearly and in a more subtle way in Octet.

Steve Reich is considered to be America's greatest composer whose work has altered the direction of musical history.

Octet/Music For A Large Ensemble/Violin Phase

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