Dream Scream

I am sitting at the top of a climbing apparatus like the ones in junior school gymnasiums, except it is “adult” size, putting me two stories above the floor without a crash mat. Beside me are two school crushes whom I haven’t seen in real or dream life or thought about since early adolescence. We are talking and they are making it seem as though I have been neglecting them all these decades or something like that. They are wearing flowing clothing, carefree and seemingly oblivious to our location . . .

I am on a campus, it is the present but the atmosphere in the college I’m in is decidedly 70s. People are engaged in reckless partying and wildly indulgent artistic endeavours with generous overlap between the two. I have combed out my afro to larger than life dimensions. It feels silky . . .

I am in a corporate meeting of entertainment executives and they are listening to my responses to mass sci-fi culture, as if I were an expert. Somehow this develops into me being chosen for a low orbit space mission. The feeling of being chosen for something apparently important is exhilarating . . .

I go for a long walk at night through the forests surrounding the campus and encounter shadowy beings who seem friendly and are trying to speak or sing to me through the trees. They are ethereal, and engaging in some kind of ritual dance, a quiet celebration . . .

I am sitting in a chair in my home with my back to the floor (like an astronaut in launch position), interacting with online friends about creative items we are posting. One of us – we don’t know – has presented some audio or graphic art that analysis has revealed to be of extraterrestrial origin or design (of course) . . .

I am so engrossed in this that I don’t notice two intruders have entered the room and are going through my equipment, taking technology. I want to confront them but it’s not clear whether I’m still on my back but I cannot move . . .

I begin to shout at them. They continue taking things and appear to be moving to subdue me. I shout “Help!” with a rasp in my voice. The shout wakes me, my wife, and our baby daughter (real life here). Luckily it is 6:30 a.m. The night is over and it’s exactly when we predicted the baby would wake anyway. Still.

Yeah, stuff is a little intense right now. Great and less so, overall intense. This dream seems a little run of the mill for me, except for the ending. Afterward, I had the desire to be held. Thing is, I’m not a hungry baby just waking up. Journalling seemed in order.

Birthday Music

Today would have been the 85th birthday of my father Samuel Lawrence (Larry) Russell. He died two months short of his 65th, so this year is also the twentieth anniversary of his passing. Although as a transracial adoptee I have travelled on an outlying cultural path from that of my adoptive family, they are the original source of love in my life.

If my father was a little out of his era and his element in following what I did as a young musician—his natural musical heroes were Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra and Buddy Holly—he always had time to listen to whatever seemingly strange, novice piece I was working on and the even stranger theory behind it. He would encourage me and then gently mention “making it accessible.”

I don’t know what he would have made of Birthday Music, one of a number of pieces I composed and dedicated to him in the year after his death. Created for my demo reel as a composer for dance, it’s an admittedly bizarre concoction incorporating just intonation tuning, drones, my quirky programming style and the strongest evidence of Steve Reich’s influence on my work. With all that in the mix, I still relied on good-old, I-VI-I-V-I blues structure in the bassline, and a snare-kick backbeat, albeit in 3/2 time.

For Larry, with love

Composed and recorded on a Korg M1 workstation, May 31, 1993

Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce Russell 2013

Steve Reich Keys, a Mixtape, Vol. 2

Steve Reich has often described the role of keys and chord cycles in his compositions. This retrospective treats Reich’s oeuvre as a meta-cycle of chords, using harmonic mixing to match tracks whose endpoints share a common key or subset of pitches.

Vol. 2 focuses on Reich’s earlier, longer pieces, and includes most of his major works not appearing in Vol. 1, with several being reprised. Vols. 1 and 2 are linked harmonically by the dyad F#-B, heard at the end of Proverb and the beginning of the second movement of Electric Counterpoint. Also, the dyad E-A at the end of Four Organs is found in the first chord of the third movement of Mallet Quartet. Thus, both volumes may be heard back-to-back as a 5 1/2 hour cycle.

Vol. 2 features several dominant-tonic transitions, a natural result given that Reich’s pieces often end on the dominant chord.

No alteration of the pitch of the original tracks was made.

Tracklist & Artists
(keys and/or harmonies at endpoints)

Electric Counterpoint, II. Slow (1987)
Pat Metheny
(F#-B dyad, A Lydian or B11/A in C# minor)

The Four Sections, IV. Full orchestra (♩ = 180) (1987)
The London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas
(A Lydian or B11/A in C# minor; C# dominant, C#-F# dyad in F# major)

Drumming, Part IV (1970-71)
Ictus, Synergy Vocals
(C#-F# dyad in G# Dorian or C# dominant)

Sextet, III. (1984)
Steve Reich and Musicians with members of Nexus and the Manhattan Marimba Quartet
(C# altered dominant)

Three Tales: Dolly, VI. Robots/Cyborgs/Immortality (1998-2002)
The Steve Reich Ensemble, Synergy Vocals, Bradley Lubman
(C# altered dominant; Gsus7 in C minor)

Three Movements, I. ♩ = c. 176-184 (1986)
Chorus sine nomine, Tonkünstler-Orchester, Kristjan Järvi
(E altered dominant, includes Gsus7; Csus7 in A-flat)

Music for a Large Ensemble (1978)
Steve Reich and Musicians
(F minor; A-flat major)

Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973)
Alarm Will Sound
(F minor; A-flat dominant in D-flat)

Eight Lines (Octet) (1979/1983)
Bang on a Can/Bradley Lubman
(C# Dorian; A-flat dominant in D-flat)

Six Marimbas Counterpoint (1973/1986)
Kuniko Kato
(D-flat; B-flat Aeolian)

Dance Patterns (2002)
James Preiss, Thad Wheeler, Frank Cassara, Garry Kvistad, Edmund Niemann, Nurit Tilles
(B-flat dominant; C minor)

Cello Counterpoint (2003)
Maya Beiser
(G Phrygian dominant, C minor)

Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards (1979)
San Francisco Symphony, Edo de Waart
(C minor, C Dorian)

The Cave, Act 3: New York City/Austin (April-May 1992), III. Who Is Hagar? (1990-93)
The Steve Reich Ensemble, Paul Hillier
(F dominant in G minor; D minor)

Tehillim, Part IV (1981)
Steve Reich and Musicians, George Manahan
(C dominant in D minor, A dominant in D)

It’s Gonna Rain, Part I (1965)
Steve Reich
(D major)

Piano Phase (1967)
Double Edge
(B minor; Esus7)

Four Organs (1970)
Bang on a Can
(E dominant; E-A dyad)

Compiled and mixed April 2013

Creative Consultant: Ashil Mistry

As it is intended for the study and analysis of the music of Steve Reich, this post falls under fair use. The copyrights for these recordings are owned by record companies Chandos, Cyprès, Denon, ECM, Linn, Nonesuch, Sweetspot and UMG. The copyrights for the music are owned by Boosey & Hawkes and Universal Edition. Please contact me directly regarding any copyright claim.

If you enjoy this music, please purchase the original recordings.