posted on April 27, 2007 03:00
If I had to chose one stand out live performance from many years of concert going then, bearing in mind that I have been privileged to have had the chance to see many of the greats such as John Lee Hooker, Lou Reed, Sir Peter Maxwell Davis and Frank Sinatra live, it would have to be the performance by Ensemble Modern & Synergy Vocals of Steve Reich's "You Are (Variations)" and "Music for 18 Musicians" in the National Concert Hall on Sunday 19th February 2006 in the presence of the composer. Reich is often lazily described as the Father of Minimalism but, it would be more accurate to say that he is a composer who values rhythm over melody. This is most clearly seen in his 1970-1971 masterpiece "Drumming". Commentators often state that Reich's trip to Africa in the summer of 1970 inspired the piece which is in four parts that are played without a pause and may last from 55 to 75 minutes in performance depending on the number of repeats but Reich himself points out that’s what that trip to Africa provided was, "confirmation. It confirmed my intuition that acoustic instruments could be used to produce music that was genuinely richer in sound then that produced with electronic instruments." Commentators also mistakenly point out that the piece is also influenced by his study of Balinese Gamelan Semar Pegulingan and Gameland Gambang at the American Society for the Eastern Arts in Seattle and Berkley, California but this study period did not occur until 1973, two years after the completion of 'Drumming".
Surfing seems to attract more than its fair share of bongo bashers and bores who drone on endlessly about "Bali and Indo" so you could say that "Drumming" would appeal to them on some level but that doesn't alter the fact that it is a wonderfully complex and rich composition and ironically it has become a touchstone for succeeding generations of pecussive composers who work with electronic instruments. Indeed, Reich's own record company Nonesuch Records even produced an album entitled "Reich Remixed" in 1999 featuring remixes of excerpts of "Drumming" by both Fourtet and Mantronix Maximum Drum Formula but these are but a pale shadow of the original. In addition, Reich's influence can be clearly heard on the Arcade Fire track 'Keep The Car Running" where the opening mirrors that of the opening of "Music for 18 Musicians"
Anyway, to give you an easy to digest sample of Reich's muse here is a 1min 7sec clip of a live performance of his piece "Clapping Music" courtesy of YouTube.
Clapping Music (1972)
two musicians clapping
published by Universal Edition (London)
both musicians amplified
Details courtesy: www.stevereich.com
After which you can enjoy an excerpt from his 1983 work "Eight Lines".
Eight Lines (1983)
For performances where the concert hall has a capacity of greater
than 200 the flutes (but not piccolos) & clarinets/bass clarinets and pianos
must be amplified