Musiques Nouvelles speelt Steve Reich in Bozar

Steve Reich Woensdagavond brengt Musiques Nouvelles in Bozar vier werken van de Amerikaanse componist Steve Reich (foto), waaronder twee relatief recente die voor het eerst in België worden uitgevoerd. Met het overwegend ritmische Double Sextet won hij in 2009 een Pulitzer Prize, de allereerste uit zijn carrière. 2×5 is het verlengstuk van die compositie, maar ditmaal met rockinstrumenten.

Steve Reich over Electric Counterpoint (1987): ” Electric Counterpoint (1987) was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival for guitarist Pat Metheny. It was composed during the summer of 1987. The duration is about 15 minutes. It is the third in a series of pieces (first Vermont Counterpoint in 1982 for flutist Ransom Wilson followed by New York Counterpoint in 1985 for clarinettist Richard Stolzman) all dealing with a soloist playing against a pre-recorded tape of themselves. In Electric Counterpoint the soloist pre-records as many as 10 guitars and 2 electric bass parts and then plays the final 11th guitar part live against the tape. I would like to thank Pat Metheny for showing me how to improve the piece in terms of making it more idiomatic for the guitar.

Electric Counterpoint is in three movements; fast, slow, fast, played one after the other without pause. The first movement, after an introductory pulsing section where the harmonies of the movement are stated, uses a theme derived from Central African horn music that I became aware of through the ethnomusicologist Simha Arom. That theme is built up in eight voice canon and while the remaining two guitars and bass play pulsing harmonies the soloist plays melodic patterns that result from the contrapuntal interlocking of those eight pre-recorded guitars.

The second movement cuts the tempo in half, changes key and introduces a new theme, which is then slowly built up in nine guitars in canon. Once again two other guitars and bass supply harmony while the soloist brings out melodic patterns that result from the overall contrapuntal web.

The third movement returns to the original tempo and key and introduces a new pattern in triple meter. After building up a four guitar canon two bass guitars enter suddenly to further stress the triple meter. The soloist then introduces a new series of strummed chords that are then built up in three guitar canon. When these are complete the soloist returns to melodic patterns that result from the overall counterpoint when suddenly the basses begin to change both key and meter back and forth between E minor and C minor and between 3/2 and 12/8 so that one hears first 3 groups of 4 eighth notes and then 4 groups of 3 eighth notes. These rhythmic and tonal changes speed up more and more rapidly until at the end the basses slowly fade out and the ambiguities are finally resolved in 12/8 and E minor. ” (*)

Steve Reich over 2×5 (2009) : ” My first thought was that with two electric basses I could write interlocking bass lines that would be clearly heard. This would not be possible on acoustical basses played pizzicato. I then began to think about 2 pianos and 2 electric basses being the motor for a piece that would use electric guitars and small drum kit as well. The classic rock combination of 2 electric guitars, electric bass, drums and piano seemed perfect – so long as it was a doubled quintet resulting in 2 basses, 2 pianos, 2 drums and 4 electric guitars. This made possible interlocking canons of identical instruments. The piece can be played either with 5 live musicians and 5 pre-recorded or with 10 musicians.  

2×5 is clearly not rock and roll. Like any other composition, it’s completely notated while Rock is generally not. 2×5 is chamber music for rock instruments.  

We’re living at a time when the worlds of concert music and popular music have resumed their normal dialogue after a brief pause during the 12 tone/serial period. This dialogue has been active, I would assume, since people have been making music. We know from notation that it was active  throughout the Renaissance with the folk song L’homme Armè used in Masses by composers from Dufay to Palestrina. During the Baroque period dance forms were used by composers from Froberger and Lully  to Bach and Handel. Later we have a folk songs in Haydn’s 104th, Beethoven’s 6th, Russian folk songs in Stravinsky’s early Ballets, Serbo Croatian folk music throughout Bartok, Hymns in Ives, folk songs and jazz in Copland, the entire works of Weill, Gershwin and Sondheim and on into my own generation and beyond. Electric Guitars, Electric Basses and drum kits, along with samplers, synthesizers and other electronic sound processing devices are now part of notated concert music. The dialogue continues. ” (*)

Steve Reich over Different Trains (1988) ” 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:

  1. Record my governess Virginia, then in her seventies, reminiscing about our train trips together.
  2. 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.
  3. Collect recordings of Holocaust survivors Rachella, Paul and Rachel, all about my age and then living in America – speaking of their experiences.
  4. 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 Trainsis in three movements (played without pause), although that term is stretched here since tempos change frequently in each movement. They are:

  1. America- Before the war
  2. Europe – During the war
  3. 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 over Double Sextet (2007) : ” There are two identical sextets in Double Sextet. Each one is comprised of  flute, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, violin and cello. Doubling the instrumentation was done so that, as in so many of my earlier works, two identical instruments could interlock to produce one overall pattern. For example, in this piece you will hear the pianos and vibes interlocking in a highly rhythmic way to drive the rest of the ensemble.

The piece can be played in two ways; either with 12 musicians, or with six playing against a recording of themselves. In these premiere performance you will hear the sextet Eighth Blackbird, who commissioned the work, playing against their recording.

The idea of a single player playing against a recording of themselves goes all the way back to Violin Phase of 1967 and extends though Vermont Counterpoint (1982), New York Counterpoint (1985), Electric Counterpoint (1987) and Cello Counterpoint (2003). The expansion of this idea to an entire chamber ensemble playing against pre-recordings of themselves begins with Different Trains (1988) and continues with Triple quartet (1999) and now to Double Sextet.  By doubling an entire chamber ensemble one creates the possibility for multiple simultaneous contrapuntal webs of identical instruments. In Different Trains and Triple Quartet all instruments are strings to produce one large string fabric. In Double Sextet there is more timbrel variety through the interlocking of six different pairs of percussion, string and wind instruments.

The piece is in three movements fast, slow, fast and within each movement there are four harmonic sections built around the keys of D, F, Ab and B or their relative minor keys b,d,f and g#. As in almost all my music, modulations from one key to the next are sudden, clearly setting off each new section.

Double Sextet is about 22 minutes long and was completed in October 2007. It was commissioned by Eighth Blackbird and will receive its world premiere by that group at the University of Richmond in Virginia on March 26, 2008. The New York Premiere will be at Carnegie Zankel Hall on April 17, 2008. ” (*)

Programma :

– Steve Reich, Electric Counterpoint – 2×5 – Different Trains – Double Sextet

Tijd en plaats van het gebeuren :

Musiques Nouvelles : Steve Reich
Woensdag 25 april 2011 om 20.00 u
Bozar – Brussel

Ravensteinstraat 23
1000 Brussel

Meer info : en

Extra :
Steve Reich op,, (*) en youtube
Steve Reich (1936 – ) : Groot minimalist op

Beluister alvast Steve Reichs Electric Counterpoint


Steve Reichs 2×5


en het eerste deel uit Steve Reichs Different trains