Steve Reich b. 1938
Ensemble Modern Plays Steve Reich in Tokyo
A rare video; found on Japanese Television.
Duration: 116 min.
Steve Reich goes to Tokyo, and has a concert consisting of:
Reich explains: Daniel Variations is in four movements using texts from the Biblical book of Daniel for the first and third movements and from the words of Daniel Pearl, the American Jewish reporter, kidnapped and murdered by Islamist extremists in Pakistan in 2002, for the second and fourth movements. The texts/movements are:
1. I saw a dream. Images upon my bed & visions in my head frightened me (Daniel 4:2, or 4:5 in Christian translations)
2. My name is Daniel Pearl (I'm a Jewish American from Encino, California)
3. Let the dream fall back on the dreaded (Daniel 4:16, or 4:19 in Christian translations)
4. I sure hope Gabriel likes my music, when the day is done.
The piece is scored for two sopranos and two tenors with two B-flat clarinets, four vibes, bass and kick drums, tam-tam, four pianos, and string quartet. It was co-commissioned by the Barbican Centre in London, Carnegie Hall in New York, CitÈ de la Musique in Paris, Casa de Musica in Porto, Portugal, and in memory of Daniel Pearl by an anonymous donor in association with Meet The Composer and the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which is dedicated to cross-cultural understanding and music. Daniel Variations was premiered at the Barbican in London in 2006 as part of Steve Reich's 70th birthday celebration.
Music for 18 Musicians:
Music for 18 Musicians is approximately 55 minutes long. The first sketches were made for it in May 1974 and it was completed in March 1976. Although its steady pulse and rhythmic energy relate to many of my earlier works, its instrumentation, structure and harmony are new.
As to instrumentation, Music for 18 Musicians is new in the number and distribution of instruments: violin, cello, 2 clarinets doubling bass clarinet, 4 women's voices, 4 pianos, 3 marimbas, 2 xylophones and metallophone (vibraphone with no motor). All instruments are acoustical. The use of electronics is limited to microphones for voices and some of the instruments.
There is more harmonic movement in the first 5 minutes of Music for 18 Musicians than in any other complete work of mine to date. Though the movement from chord to chord is often just a re-voicing, inversion or relative minor or major of a previous chord, usually staying within the key signature of three shapes at all times, nevertheless, within these limits harmonic movement plays a more important role in this piece than in any other I have written.
Rhythmically, there are two basically different kinds of time occurring simultaneously in Music for 18 Musicians. The first is that of a regular rhythmic pulse in the pianos and mallet instruments that continues throughout the piece. The second is the rhythm of the human breath in the voices and wind instruments. The entire opening and closing sections plus part of all sections in between contain pulses by the voice and winds. They take a full breath and sing or play pulses of particular notes for as long as their breath will comfortably sustain them. The breath is the measure of the duration of their pulsing. This combination of one breath after another gradually washing up like waves against the constant rhythm of the pianos and mallet instruments is something I have not heard before and would like to investigate further.
The structure of Music for 18 Musicians is based on a cycle of eleven chords played at the very beginning of the piece and repeated at the end. All the instruments and voices play or sing the pulsating notes with each chord. Instruments like the strings which to not have to breath nevertheless follow the rise and fall of the breath by following the breathing patterns of the bass clarinet. Each chord is held for the duration of two breaths, and the next chord is gradually introduced, and so on, until all eleven are played and the ensemble returns to the first chord. The first pulsing chord is then maintained by two pianos and two marimbas. While this pulsing chord is held for about five minutes a small piece is constructed on it. When this piece is completed there is a sudden change to the second chord, and a second small piece or section is constructed. This means that each chord that might have taken fifteen or twenty seconds to play in the opening section is then stretched out as the basic pulsing melody for a five minute piece very much as a single note in a cantus firmus, or chant melody of a 12th century Organum by Perotin might be stretched out for several minutes as the harmonic centre for a section of the Organum. The opening eleven chord cycle of Music for 18 Musicians is a kind of pulsing cantus for the entire piece.
On each pulsing chord one or, on the third chord, two small pieces are built. These pieces or sections are basically either in form of an arch (ABCDCBA), or in the form of a musical process, like that of substituting beats for rests, working itself out from beginning to end. Elements appearing in one section will appear in another but surrounded by different harmony and instrumentation. For instance the pulse in pianos and marimbas in sections 1 and 2 changes to marimbas and xylophones in section 3A, and to xylophones and maracas in sections 6 and 7. The low piano pulsing harmonies of section 3A reappear in section 6 supporting a different melody played by different instruments. The process of building up a canon, or phase relation, between two xylophones and two pianos which first occurs in section 2, occurs again in section 9 but building up to another overall pattern in a different harmonic context. The relationship between the different sections is thus best understood in terms of resemblances between members of a family. Certain characteristics will be shared, but others will be unique.
Changes from one section to the next, as well as changes within each section are cued by the metallophone (vibraphone with no motor) whose patterns are played once only to call for movements to the next bar, much as in Balinese Gamelan a drummer will audibly call for changes of pattern in West African Music. This is in contrast to the visual nods of the head used in earlier pieces of mine to call for changes and in contrast also to the general Western practice of having a non-performing conductor for large ensembles. Audible cures become part of the music and allow the musicians to keep listening. -- Steve Reich
Different Trains, for String Quartet and pre-recorded performance tape, begins a new way of composing that has its roots in my early tape pieces It's Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966). The basic idea is that carefully chosen speech recordings generate the musical materials for musical instruments.
The idea for the piece form my childhood. When I was one year old my parents separated. My mother moved to Los Angeles and my father stayed in New York. Since they arranged divided custody, I travelled back and forth by train frequently between New York and Los Angeles from 1939 to 1942 accompanied by my governess. While the trips were exciting and romantic at the time I now look back and think that, if I had been in Europe during this period, as a Jew I would have had to ride very different trains. With this in mind I wanted to make a piece that would accurately reflect the whole situation. In order to prepare the tape I did the following:
Record my governess Virginia, then in her seventies, reminiscing about our train trips together.
Record a retired Pullman porter, Lawrence Davis, then in his eighties, who used to ride lines between New York and Los Angeles, reminiscing about his life.
Collect recordings of Holocaust survivors Rachella, Paul and Rachel, all about my age and then living in America ñ speaking of their experiences.
Collect recorded American and European train sounds of the 30s and 40s.
In order to combine the taped speech with the string instruments I selected small speech samples that are more or less clearly pitched and then notated them as accurately as possible in musical notation.
The strings then literally imitate that speech melody. The speech samples as well as the train sounds were transferred to tape with the use of sampling keyboards and a computer. Three separate string quartets are also added to the pre-recorded tape and the final live quartet part is added in performance.
Different Trains is in three movements (played without pause), although that term is stretched here since tempos change frequently in each movement. They are:
America- Before the war
Europe - During the war
After the war
The piece thus presents both a documentary and a musical reality and begins a new musical direction. It is a direction that I expect will lead to a new kind of documentary music video theatre in the not too distant future. -- Steve Reich