Categories
Composers Mixtapes Postclassical

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)

0:00:00-0:03:01
Electric Counterpoint, II. Slow (1987)
Pat Metheny
(F#-B dyad, A Lydian or B11/A in C# minor)

0:02:55-0:09:02
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)

0:09:02-0:18:48
Drumming, Part IV (1970-71)
Ictus, Synergy Vocals
(C#-F# dyad in G# Dorian or C# dominant)

0:18:45-0:21:13
Sextet, III. (1984)
Steve Reich and Musicians with members of Nexus and the Manhattan Marimba Quartet
(C# altered dominant)

0:21:10-0:30:31
Three Tales: Dolly, VI. Robots/Cyborgs/Immortality (1998-2002)
The Steve Reich Ensemble, Synergy Vocals, Bradley Lubman
(C# altered dominant; Gsus7 in C minor)

0:30:07-0:36:42
Three Movements, I. ♩ = c. 176-184 (1986)
Chorus sine nomine, Tonkünstler-Orchester, Kristjan Järvi
(E altered dominant, includes Gsus7; Csus7 in A-flat)

0:36:38-0:52:04
Music for a Large Ensemble (1978)
Steve Reich and Musicians
(F minor; A-flat major)

0:52:02-1:07:13
Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973)
Alarm Will Sound
(F minor; A-flat dominant in D-flat)

1:07:12-1:24:32
Eight Lines (Octet) (1979/1983)
Bang on a Can/Bradley Lubman
(C# Dorian; A-flat dominant in D-flat)

1:24:32-1:40:54
Six Marimbas Counterpoint (1973/1986)
Kuniko Kato
(D-flat; B-flat Aeolian)

1:40:54-1:46:56
Dance Patterns (2002)
James Preiss, Thad Wheeler, Frank Cassara, Garry Kvistad, Edmund Niemann, Nurit Tilles
(B-flat dominant; C minor)

1:46:53-1:58:20
Cello Counterpoint (2003)
Maya Beiser
(G Phrygian dominant, C minor)

1:58:21-2:19:55
Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards (1979)
San Francisco Symphony, Edo de Waart
(C minor, C Dorian)

2:19:55-2:24:35
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)

2:24:35-2:31:03
Tehillim, Part IV (1981)
Steve Reich and Musicians, George Manahan
(C dominant in D minor, A dominant in D)

2:30:42-2:38:28
It’s Gonna Rain, Part I (1965)
Steve Reich
(D major)

2:38:15-2:58:40
Piano Phase (1967)
Double Edge
(B minor; Esus7)

2:58:37-3:14:23
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.

Categories
Composers Electronic Funk Jazz Lists Performers Pop Postclassical R&B

Best of 2011/2012

The past 24 months have been full of wonderful blessings and have witnessed the happiest period of my life so far. Alhamdulillah, for all that has been given.

It thus seems fitting to me, in doing a best of list, to look at the last two years as a whole. Here’s what has brought (re)new(ed)ness to the personal soundtrack, in no particular order (other than stream of consciousness)…

Returnings: Music of Ann Southam – Eve Egoyan, piano (Centrediscs, 2011)

Glass Houses Revisited – music of Ann Southam; Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano (Centrediscs, 2011)

Soundings for a New Piano – music of Ann Southam; R. Andrew Lee, piano (Irritable Hedgehog, 2011)

Jürg Frey: Piano Music – R. Andrew Lee, piano (Irritable Hedgehog, 2012)

The Northern Shore – music of Barbara Monk Feldman; Sabat/Clarke and Aki Takahashi (Mode, 2012)

Undercurrents: CONTACT Performs the Music of Jordan Nobles – CONTACT Contemporary Music (Redshift, 2011)

Until the Quiet Comes – Flying Lotus (Warp, 2012)

Seeds – Georgia Anne Muldrow (Someothaship CONNECT, 2012)

Radio Music Society – Esperanza Spalding (Heads Up International, 2012)

Black Radio – Robert Glasper Experiment (Blue Note, 2012)

Brand New Wayo: Funk, Fast Times & Nigerian Boogie Madness 1979-1983 – Various Artists (Comb & Razor, 2011)

Music of Vladimir Martynov – Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch, 2012)

WTC 9/11, Mallet Quartet, Dance Patterns – music of Steve Reich; Kronos Quartet, Sō Percussion, Steve Reich & Musicians (Nonesuch, 2011)

Symphony No. 9 – music of Philip Glass; Bruckner Orchester Linz, Dennis Russell Davies, conductor (Orange Mountain, 2012)

Seeing is Believing – music of Nico Muhly, William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons; Thomas Gould, violin; Aurora Orchestra, Nicholas Collon, conductor (Decca, 2011)

Adam’s Lament – music of Arvo Pärt; Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis, Sinfonietta Riga, Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor (ECM, 2012)

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima / Popcorn Superhet Receiver / Polymorphia / 48 Responses to Polymorphia – music of Krzysztof Penderecki and Jonny Greenwood; AUKSO Orchestra, Krzysztof Penderecki and Marek Moś, conductors (Nonesuch, 2012)

Son of Chamber Symphony / String Quartet – music of John Adams; International Contemporary Ensemble, John Adams, conductor and St. Lawrence String Quartet (Nonesuch, 2011)

January edits:

Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons – Daniel Hope, violin; Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin, André de Ridder, conductor (Deutsche Grammophon, 2012)

Pour une âme souveraine – a Dedication to Nina Simone – Meshell Ndegeocello (naïve, 2012)

Pink – Four Tet (Text, 2012)

Happy New Year to all the readers and followers of El Mahboob, and all my best to you for 2013.

Categories
Anniversary Archive Composers Journal Memoir

Cage Centenary

August 12, 1992

(Journal entry. Transcription by Nehal El-Hadi, September 4, 2012)

John Cage died today at 79. I have somehow been expecting this news, as if it were confirmation that a certain era of progressiveness or revolution was truly now over. Cage, more than any other single figure in the arts, was one to bring about change in Western culture. And I wonder what effect his passing will have on art and music, if there is one to be felt.

He was a person who was mysterious to me, and I knew only some of his music and writings, but what I felt for him was something approaching worship. His ideas on music and life were some of the most profound I have yet encountered. I am sure that it will be many more years before I can really appreciate or understand the person or at least his ideas.

The music, however, has always communicated to me almost instantaneously. I am affected not merely on a cerebral or spiritual level, but on a highly instinctualized one. His prepared piano pieces give a feeling which is new and alien and perfectly “logical” at the same time. His reaffirmation of rhythm was so much more thorough and fundamental than either Stravinsky’s or Bartók’s. Through the innovation of prepared piano (even if it wasn’t his) and his writing for unique grouping of percussion, he reasserted the primitive in our music. This was long before rock ‘n’ roll or minimalism or new age; these genres owe a lot to him even if it has never been acknowledged.

His willingness to accept the total sound spectrum, including noise, as full of musical potential – not just tempered pitches and orchestral timbres – put Cage (along with Varése and Ives) at the forefront of musical innovation in this century. This was his gift to us: the whole world of sound.

The man who gave us “Music of Changes” realized there was inner music in outer silence, and inspired a whole community of performers to explore it. He legitimized his non-conformity.

I find it interesting that he eschewed conventional temporal and harmonic structures early on, and spent the rest of his life rediscovering the role of time in music, and later, the context of non-music.

I can think of no better goal than searching for the same answers that he was through his music – to learn about this world through art (not to exploit art for shallow ends). When we are confronted with silence in the not-too-distant future, after the media maelstrom, we will find Cage waiting, listening.

Categories
Composers Memoir

Li’l Minimalist

(written in March 2010)

One sunny late winter evening, I pick up Queen Peace after work. Nattily attired and chipper, she skips just ahead and then whirls around to ask, “Do you want to see my favourite dance?”

Of course, I answer. Her skip turns into a side to side stride, her arms swinging wide, as she sings an amalgam of various nursery rhymes, laughing herself off balance and half-crashing into some bushes. Then, she stands up straight and walks by my side. Quietly thoughtful for a moment, she looks up and says, “Daddy, I’m actually very interested in Steve Reich.”

This is a three year-old, who, every few days when I see her, seems to have advanced to a complete new level of understanding and expression of her world. And level of memory – it was a while ago I told her I had tickets to the Cool Drummings concert in Toronto, featuring the composer and his music.

“Can I go to the concert with you?”

It will be past your bedtime honey, and it might be a little loud for you. But we can listen to a Steve Reich concert when we get home if you like.

Later, I put on the Reich at the Roxy album.

“It’s skipping.”

“It sounds like soldiers.” Break in music from pulsing rhythm to pillars of sounds and shift of tempo; return to steady rhythm. We count together, dividing the bar by three, then four. This loses most adults. The bass drum and bass end of the piano pound out accents. “More soldiers,” she says. “Marching. March! March!” I begin to worry she’ll confuse this Reich with a more infamous one when her schooling begins.

I leave the room briefly. A fast movement begins. “Daddy, daddy, she calls out, “It’s playing very fast now! I call him Steve Rush!”

Voices. “Oh, I like opera.” Steve Reich doesn’t. “Does he like goblins and faeries in his opera?”

The music stops on a dime. “It’s over, I think.” [Applause.] “The concert ended. Daddy, it was good. I like Steve Reich.”

Categories
Composers Mixtapes

Steve Reich Keys, a Mixtape, Vol. 1

The idea for this mixtape came to me about a year ago, after an exchange with an online friend. 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, by pitch matching one track to another where their endpoints share a common harmony (an application of the DJ technique of harmonic mixing).

Sometimes the shared harmony is present only for a few seconds, long enough to make a link. Sometimes the keys match; sometimes only a subset of pitches does. Occasionally, the voicing matches exactly, or the pairing otherwise exposes the uncanny in Reich’s rigour.

There’s no intentional comment or structure in the selection of pieces, which are usually single movements from a larger work.

No software alteration of the pitch of the original tracks was used. The pitch matching relates to the key signatures as written, performed and recorded.

Tracklist & Artists
(harmonies and/or keys at start & end points)
Timings factor in crossfades where applicable

0:00:00-0:04:37
Mallet Quartet, III. Fast (2009)
So Percussion
(G Lydian or A11/G in D; A11 leading to Dsus2)

0:04:37-0:08:53
Music for 18 Musicians, Section I (1974-76)
Steve Reich and Musicians
(Dsus2 in D)

0:08:53-0:13:02
You Are (Variations), II. Shiviti Hashem L’Negdi (I Place the Eternal Before Me) (2004)
Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon
(A11/G in D)

0:13:02-0:15:17
The Cave, Act 1: West Jerusalem (May-June 1989), III. Genesis XII (1990-93)
The Steve Reich Ensemble, Paul Hillier
(G Mixolydian; A Lydian or B13/A)

0:15:17-0:17:46
The Four Sections, II. Percussion (1987)
The London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas
(A Lydian or B13/A)

0:17:41-0:20:53
2×5, II. Slow (2008)
Bang on a Can
(A Lydian or B11/A; F Phrygian dominant in key of B-flat minor)

0:20:37-0:28:06
Different Trains, II. Europe-During The War (1988)
The London Steve Reich Ensemble, Kevin Griffiths
(F Phrygian; Gmin11/D)

0:27:25-0:29:59
Three Tales: Hindenburg, III. A Very Impressive Thing to See (1998-2002)
The Steve Reich Ensemble, Synergy Vocals, Bradley Lubman
(D dominant in G minor)

0:29:52-0:33:15
Triple Quartet, III. (1999)
Kronos Quartet
(D dominant in G minor; E minor)

0:33:16-0:37:41
Nagoya Marimbas (1994)
Bob Becker, James Preiss
(E minor; Esus7)

0:37:33-0:40:16
New York Counterpoint, II. Slow (1985)
Evan Ziporyn
(B Dorian or E11)

0:40:17-0:45:03
City Life, III. “It’s Been a Honeymoon – Can’t Take No Mo'” (1995)
The Steve Reich Ensemble, Bradley Lubman
(B Dorian or E11; D dominant in G)

0:45:04-0:55:06
Daniel Variations, IV. I sure hope Gabriel likes my music, when the day is done (2006)
Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon
(E minor; D dominant in G)

0:55:04-0:59:34
WTC 9/11, III. WTC (2010)
Kronos Quartet
(Dsus leading to G dominant; D-flat sharp 11 in F minor)

0:59:34-1:06:25
Variations for Vibes, Pianos & Strings, II. Slow (2005)
London Sinfonietta, Alan Pierson
(D-flat sharp 11 or E-flat 11/D-flat in A-flat major; C11/B-flat in F)

1:06:25-1:11:29
Duet (1994)
The Smith Quartet
(C11/B-flat; F major)

1:11:25-1:16:11
The Desert Music, First Movement – Fast (1984)
Steve Reich and Musicians with members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Michael Tilson Thomas
(F Mixolydian; D Dorian minor)

1:16:06-1:24:45
Vermont Counterpoint (1982)
Ransom Wilson
(D minor leading to G Dorian minor; Asus7 in D)

1:24:45-1:31:33
Double Sextet, III. Fast (2007)
eighth blackbird
(A11/E; A11, A-D dyad)

1:31:34-1:44:09
Piano Counterpoint (2011), from Six Pianos (1973)
Vincent Corver
(D major; B minor)

1:43:34-1:56:23
Come Out (1966)
Steve Reich
(B minor, approximately a quarter tone sharp)

1:55:44-1:57:59
Proverb (1995)
Theatre of Voices with members of The Steve Reich Ensemble, Paul Hillier
(B minor)

Compiled and mixed April 2012

Creative Consultant: Ashil Mistry

There is a version of this mix available which includes the complete track of Proverb. Send me a private message.

As part of the ongoing study and critical appreciation of the music of Steve Reich, this post falls under fair use. The copyrights for these recordings are owned by record companies ECM, EMI, Nonesuch, and Signum Classics, and not by me.

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

Categories
Composers Compositions

John Williams is 80

(Originally posted on sleepsong, April 21, 2009. Happy 80th birthday, Maestro!)

When John Met Igor

Older fans of traditional film scores and/or 20th century music will know this one.

And almost everyone knows the main musical theme to the 1975 film Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg and his first major success as well as generally being the first acknowledged Hollywood blockbuster.

Saying the shark theme is iconic is like saying Obama got a dog; saying it is iconic is beyond understatement. It is one of the most viral musical memes ever created. It doesn’t need a ringtone to stay in our consciousness.

Last summer I heard small children passing Jaws along – still – at a public wading pool, 33 years after it was written. Spielberg laughed at composer John Williams when the latter first played the little two-note riff on the piano for him. It’s fair to say the theme – which recurs constantly throughout the film although it’s only a tiny part of a very sophisticated score – is just as responsible for the film’s impact on pop culture as the visuals.

Only true music geeks know that the theme (properly, a motif) builds into chugging, razor-toothed chords straight outta Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (“The Rite of Spring”). Le Sacre is a ballet score that famously – along with the “primitive” choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky which it accompanied – caused a riot at its 1913 premiere. The direction of concert music was thus notoriously changed, and Jaws is easily the most well-known of many film scores that were directly influenced by it, in this case over 60 years later.

For this post, I took a CD of the Jaws score – as originally recorded and conducted by John Williams in Hollywood with a small studio orchestra in 1975, and a CD of Le Sacre – as conducted by Igor Stravinsky in New York City with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in 1960, and cross-faded and mashed them up them DJ style. We hears Jaws first, then Le Sacre at 0:33, then Williams swims back into the mix alongside Stravinsky from 1:18 until the end.

Spring Bites

I have not altered the pitch nor speed of either recording, letting them kind of wash up (ahem) over each other. I created this audio file in real time using my CD turntables – no desktop software was involved.

Williams was in essence sampling Stravinsky to create the underpinning to Jaws, the way a hip-hop producer might loop a drum break from an old R&B/funk record to make a new-school beat. Of course, hip-hop wasn’t quite born yet in 1975.