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Reich, Steve / You Are (Variations)
Album:You Are (Variations) Collection:General
Artist:Reich, Steve Added:03/2006
Label:Nonesuch Records 

A-File Activity
Add Date:2006-04-09 Pull Date:2006-06-11 Charts:Classical/Experimental
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Album Review
Captain Dee
Reviewed 2006-03-04 
This release features two new works by the Minimalist master. The first work sees Reich team up with the excellent Los Angeles Master Chorale (as well as a variety of instruments). Throw away any preconceptions you have of "minimal" or "experimental" music – the sound here is very full, even lush. The short texts (in English and Hebrew) are philosophical/religious in nature and reflect Reich’s interest in his Jewish heritage. The second work spotlights Reich's intricate counterpoint, this time on cellos (all performed by Maya Baiser)

The complex rhythms that Reich weaves are absolutely entrancing. The gradually unfolding majesty of Reich's work gives his compositions a uniquely epic scope. This is the kind of music to play alongside the colliding of planets, the dizzying ebb and flow of modern urban life, the birth and death of entire species. Yet at the same time, these open-ended soundscapes are also quite personal, amenable to interpretation and daydreaming.

As with anything Reich composes, I cannot overemphasize how important this work is. Essential listening for all DJs.

- Captain Dee, 3-2006 -


Background:

"Performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles: pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest; turning over an hour glass and watching the sand slowly run through to the bottom; placing your feet in the sand by the ocean’s edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them."
- Steve Reich

Steve Reich is one of the four founding fathers of musical Minimalism. His experiments – a reaction against the overly intellectual atonality of Serialists like Schoenberg and Boulez, as well as the largely unstructured "chance music" of John Cage – began in the 1960s with cut up/repeated tape loops. However, his music soon evolved into something that can hardly be called "minimal." Reich's core idea is to use "gradual" music to make the unfolding process of music clear and perceptible – listening to Reich is like watching an elaborate piece of clockwork operate. Important influences include the complex rhythms of Western African drum music (sparked by a trip to Ghana), the repetitive structures of jazz from musicians like John Coltrane, and the polyphony and pacing of Perotin (and other medieval composers).

(Can you tell Steve Reich is my favorite composer? As a side note, a good place to start with Reich is "Music for 18 Musicians," which in my opinion is the greatest Classical work of the 20th century.)


Track by track:

Tracks 1-4 - You Are (Variations):

1. "You Are Wherever Your Thoughts Are" (13:14)
Lush chorale repetition, hypnotic piano anchors the rhythm. The rhythm section that starts building at ~5:40 is breathtaking. Wow, epic!
2. "Shiviti Hashem L'Negdi (I Place The Eternal Before Me)" (4:15)
Playful vibe, chorale layering. Super catchy, almost dance-y marimba rhythms.
3. "Explanations Come To An End Somewhere" (5:24)
The text is a Wittgenstein reference. Slow and plodding, mysterious and slightly tragic atmosphere.
4. "Ehmor M'Aht, V'Ahsay Harbay (Say Little And Do Much)" (4:05)
Jubilant feel, almost like a celebration. Heavy marimbas and vibes. Very dynamic.

5. "Cello Counterpoint" (11:31)
Swirling sea of cellos, very dramatic. Harsh dissonance, but in a really beautiful fashion. Totally spell binding – wow!

Track Listing
1.You Are Wherever Your Thoughts Are 3.Explanations Come To An End Somewhere
2.Shiviti Hashem L'negdi (I Place The Eternal Before Me) 4.Ehmor M'aht, V'ahsay Harbay (Say Little And Do Much)
 5.Cello Counterpoint