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Monday, January 02, 2006


While Googling Sufjan Stevens I came across the name of Steve Reich, a minimalist composer. I clicked on a link and listened to one of his most famous pieces: Music for 18 Musicians. I was blown away. It's so obvious Reich is one of Sufjan Stevens' influences. I don't have a grasp of music terms but what I found so attractive about the piece was how repetition gradually gave birth to harmonies and melodies. It felt like I was standing in light snowfall, the snowflakes slowly building some fantastic sculpture around me.

I've been reading a lot online about his work and the way he composes. I can't wait to hear his composition titled Pendulum Music:

Three or more microphones are suspended above the speakers by means of a cable and stand. The microphones are pulled back, switched on, and swung back and forth over the speaker. As the microphone nears the speaker, a feedback tone is created. The music created is then the result of the process of the swinging microphones.

Reich is one of the fathers of process music. Music that makes the way it was composed audible. This fascinates me. I'm going to dig deeper into the work of this man. And to think I once thought Moby was brilliant for looping speech into his music. Little did I know that he was just riffing on Steve Reich's phasing compositions like Come Out and It's Gonna Rain.

Any of you out there fans of Reich or any other minimalist composer? If so, please recommend some album titles for me to pick up.


the machinist said...

Reich is great. Do you know John Adams? If not, you should check him out. I bet you would like his piece 'Short Ride In a Fast Machine.' Probably Philip Glass, as well-- 'Canyon' or 'Songs From Liquid Days.'

Brian Campbell said...

I listened to it, and enjoyed it very much. Thank you. I'll see about purchasing it somewhere -- it makes great music to work by, as well as just listen to. Amazing that these are live musicians using traditional instruments -- if I hadn't known, I would have imagined it was sound-designed using samples & feedback loops. (That kind of thing can be done with equal expression on the computer nowadays, believe me -- but only by a truly truly inspired programmer/sound designer...) Similar music that I treasure includes a recording of polyphonic chants by Pygmies, and Javanese gamelin music, and a certain group of nomads singing and beating drums in Eritrea. Of course, some would say it's very different... it depends on you what you call similar, what you call different.


By the way, Irving Layton just passed away.

pete. said...

I like Terry Riley a lot. And the bit of Morton Feldman I've heard.