Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Steve Reich: WORKS 1965 - 1995, Part II of V

Disc two of the set is the hour-long work, Drumming (1971), which seems to be an extended elaboration on a single rhythmic cell in four continuous movements. This was another piece that I found interesting, but not particularly enjoyable. One of the problems I have with works like this is just the sheer magnitude of length involved in going from beginning to end. This grand extension is really necessary for the intricacies of rhythm and pitch to reveal themselves to the listeners, but they have to be willing maintain their concentration for that long of a period. Most of my own work tends to be extremely concise (and usually too concise). As I write, I try to judge where my own mind begins to wander, despite my best listening efforts, and usually err on the side of brevity to keep my imaginary audience captivated. However, seeing how these longer forms (which are no more "complex" than any normal work) are constructed should help me in developing my own sense of extension.

Disc three has three works, Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ, Clapping Music, and Six Marimbas. Clapping Music (1972) is another phase-based piece for four clapping hands. For me, it suffers from another lack of differences, since the only thing varying is the rhythm. Luckily the piece ends after five minutes. I don't recall much about Six Marimbas (I had just scratched "uneventful" on a sheet of notebook paper), and unfortunately someone checked out the boxed set before I could get it again to re-hear this piece.

I did find Music... (1983) to be an enjoyable work. The phasing technique is not used at all here, and while the variety of actual materials is still very constrained, I don't think this one could definitely be pigeonholed as Miminalist. I think the proportions are well-balanced, and the shifts in musical material are just frequent enough to sustain interest. I think part of the reason that this piece succeeds over Four Organs is the greatly reduced prominence of the organ. By dropping the harsh organ edge and mellowing it even more with the marimba timbre, it's far easier to immerse yourself in the wash of sound. Compare the two pieces on your own, and see what you think!

To be continued...

Yesterday, I read John Grisham's A Painted House (465 pages, Dell 2001), which is strikingly different from his typical courtroom drama/hack books. The story is of a farming family in the fifties in the South, and there's no mention of the law or lawyers in the entire book. It was engrossing and read quickly, but didn't end in a very satisfying manner. I tend to like stories and works that end definitively, or end at all, rather than stop. Like Gosford Park, this book just petered out, with no great revelations or changes. Pick it up if you're in the mood for a minor diversion of light reading.

Finale 2002b has been released, but the 7MB download probably isn't worth your time. None of the important bugs from 2002a have been corrected.

The Easter Bunny fights back
Harry Connick Jr. patents a computer sheet music system

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