Music for 18 Musicians – Steve Reich (1976)


Music for 18 Musicians is a work of musical minimalism composed by Steve Reich during 1974–1976. Its world premiere was on April 24, 1976, at The Town Hall in New York City. Following this, a recording of the piece was released by ECM New Series in 1978. In his introduction to the score, Reich mentions that although the piece is named Music for 18 Musicians, it is not necessarily advisable to perform the piece with that few players due to the extensive doubling it requires. The piece is based on a cycle of eleven chords. A small piece of music is based on each chord, and the piece returns to the original cycle at the end. The sections are named ‘Pulses‘, and Section I-XI. This was Reich’s first attempt at writing for larger ensembles, and the extension of performers resulted in a growth of psycho-acoustic effects, which fascinated Reich, and he noted that he would like to ‘explore this idea further’. A prominent factor in this work is the augmentation of the harmonies and melodies and the way that they develop this piece. Another important factor in the piece is the use of human breath, used in the clarinets and voices, which help structure and bring a pulse to the piece. The player plays the pulsing note for as long as he can hold it, while each chord is melodically deconstructed by the ensemble, along with augmentation of the notes held. The metallophone (unplugged vibraphone), is used to cue the ensemble to change patterns or sections. …”
Wikipedia
Pitchfork: Steve Reich – The ECM Recordings
NPR: Steve Reich’s ‘Maximum’ Minimalism (Audio)
YouTube: Music for 18 Musicians – FULL PERFORMANCE with eighth blackbird
YouTube: Music for 18 Musicians

Tom Johnson – The Voice of New Music: New York 1972-1982


“The ten years, from 1972-1982, during which Tom Johnson closely followed the developments in the new music in New York and reported his experiences in the Village Voice, constitute the most innovative and experimental period of recent musical history. A considerable number of his articles and reviews has been brought together in this collection. Together they provide a lively impression of the genesis and the exciting adventure of the new music, of the diversity of utterances that were part of it from the very start, and of the circumstances and opinions which prompted it. Johnson recorded the emergence of a generation of composers and musicians which has set out to probe once more all conventions of the Western musical tradition and to remove the barriers between different cultures and various artistic disciplines. That process is still in full swing. Therefore it is of interest today to read how that process was triggered.”
Mediamatic
W – Tom Johnson
[PDF] The Voice of New Music: New York 1972-1982

The Nuclear Observatory of Mr Nanof – Piero Milesi (1986)


“Piero Milesi is an Italian composer who approached minimalism from a unique angle on Modi (Cherry Red, 1982 – Cuneiform, 1984). The six movements of Modi No 1 (1980) is heavily influenced by Steve Reich and achieves the same kind of emphatic transcendence of Michael Nyman‘s scores. The three movements of Modi No 2 f (1980)or chamber ensemble and soprano represent a substantial innovation of Steve Reich‘s method. The melody (that has Japanese overtones) is much more relevant, and the fluctuations in the percussive pattern are more elegant and complex. The oscillation reaches a point in which the instruments follow two asynchronous waves of pulses, with the voice floating across both. The piece changes dramatically in the third movement, with the pulse becoming much stronger and the fluctuations becoming much wilder. Most of his work was for the cinema and the theater, as documented by the soundtracks collected on The Nuclear Observatory of Mr Nanof (Cuneiform, 1986). The 13-minute Mr Nanof’s Tango is actually a flute-driven elegy caressed by sympathetic strings and lulled by minimalist repetitive patterns in the strings and keyboards. Excerpts from the one-hour piece The Kings of the Night include The Procession, which creates suspense by releasing a flock of drones, and Three Figurations, a sort of frantic gamelan that generates a sort of tidal wave of sound amid symphonic staccatos. One of the most intriguing selections, The Presence Of The City, is actually a piece (mostly rollicking piano figures) that evokes a lifeless soundscape, possibly a nocturnal one. …”
Scaruffi
W – Piero_Milesi
Cuneiform Records (Audio)
amazon, iTunes

Steve Reich – Octet/Music for a Large Ensemble/Violin Phase (1980)


“Have you ever repeated a word over and over again until it loses meaning? Cognitive science calls this ‘semantic satiation.’ Now imagine that someone could do the same thing for instruments and you’ll have a clear idea of the power of a Steve Reich composition. In this selection of three longer examples, we get exactly that: an unraveling of music’s genetic code, transformed from within. It is for this more than any other reason that I’ve always been wary to use the word “minimal” in reference to Reich’s music, which is endlessly complex and never fails to engender new discoveries with every listen. The instruments in Music For A Large Ensemble fit perfectly in a vast sequence of aural DNA, as logical as it is mystifying. Every voice is given ample breathing room in a piece that, while densely layered, is as airy and ordered as a puff of windblown dandelion. Strings waver with the unrelenting heat of a desert sun, horns ebb and flow in a brassy wash of equilibrium, and a vibraphone rings out like magic over all. Although the music moves mechanically, its feel is decidedly organic. This earthiness is maintained in the Violin Phase, which consists of a repeated motif that, as with all of Reich’s “phase” pieces, is knocked just slightly out of alignment by the doubling voice, like two turn signals rhythmically staggering and realigning. This is the most localized of Reich’s phases, clearly rooted as it is in the bluegrass fiddling tradition. The violin grinds like dirt or sand, small particles swirling and separating yet holding fast to some invisible predictability. After two such strikingly different pieces, the Octet somehow comes across as the most intimate. The inclusion of wind instruments, and in particular the clarinet and flute, adds a crystalline contrast in texture and melodic shifts, bringing us to a glorious and sudden silence. …”
ECM Reviews
W – Octet/Music for a Large Ensemble/Violin Phase
allmusic
Discogs (Video)
YouTube: Octet / Music for a Large Ensemble / Violin Phase 3 videos

Extended Niceties – Love of Life Orchestra (1980)


Wikipedia – “Love of Life Orchestra was created by Peter Gordon (sax, keyboards, composition) and David Van Tieghem, a talented, smart-aleck avant-garde percussionist with ties to new music composer Steve Reich. Both have gone on to greater fame as elder statesmen of the downtown music scene in New York, but these early works stand as an important developmental chapter. — Mark Fleischmann. Collaborators on their recording Extended Niceties have included Arto Lindsay and David Byrne. Early members of the band included Laurie Anderson (electric violin), Blue Gene Tyranny (keyboards), Ken Deifik (harmonica), Scott Johnson (guitar), Rhys Chatham (flute), Peter Zummo (trombone), Arthur Russell (cello), Kathy Acker (vocals), and Jill Kroesen (vocals). …”
Wikipedia
Discogs
YouTube: Extended Niceties, Beginning Of The Heartbreak / Don’t Don’t

Steve Reich ‎– Drumming / Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices And Organ / Six Pianos (1970-73)


“These days, record reviews tend to operate as pointers and nodes. Where they once offered an immersion into the world of ideas, in an era when anything can be heard through a search and a click, critics are there to tell you that something exists. Aspects of the larger condition are unarguably good – listeners learn to trust their ears and decide for themselves, but with it comes a growing failure to recognize many of the complex fields which draw us in – culture, context, history, and association, to name a few. It isn’t always sound which excites us about the music we love – it is also where it sits, what it represents, and the position it takes. In many cases – when entering through these objects, we don’t intuitively like what we hear. It’s a challenge which demands time and work – willingly taken because of where we encounter it, and its proximity to our sense of self. It is here that we find the great value of art – where we grow, learn, and change. As I sat down to write about the long awaited reissue vinyl of Steve Reich’s  Drumming / Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices And Organ / Six Pianos, I wondered if I needed to do more than let people know it exists. In the history of 20th century Classical music, few works boast equal status. It is iconic – one of the most well know releases in the cannon of Minimalism, and over the course of its life, written about in countless ways. Is there anything left to say? …”
The Hum (Video)
Discogs (Video)
W – Drumming, W – Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ, W – Six Pianos