steve reich music for 18 musicians ... 3 steve reich (*1936) music for 18 musicians (1976) 1 pulses
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STEVE REICH Music for 18 Musicians
Ensemble LINKS Rémi Durupt
Steve Reich (*1936)
Music for 18 Musicians (1976)
1 Pulses 04:36 2 Section I 03:33 3 Section II 04:35 4 Section IIIA 03:21 5 Section IIIB 03:35 6 Section IV 04:54 7 Section V 05:52 8 Section VI 03:42 9 Section VII 03:18 10 Section VIII 02:42 11 Section IX 04:45 12 Section X 01:21 13 Section XI 04:22 14 Pulses 03:56
Ensemble LINKS Manon Bautian, voice Sandrine Carpentier, voice Juliette Demassy, voice Camille Merckx, voice Laurent Durupt, piano Trami Nguyen, piano Haga Ratovo, piano Alvise Sinivia, piano Maxime Penard, clarinets Coralie Ordulu, clarinets Stan Delannoy, marimba and maracas Clément Delmas, marimba and piano Nicolas Didier, marimba Luca Genas, marimba Maxime Guillouet, xylophone Guillaume Lantonnet, marimba Vincent Martin, xylophone and piano Elodie Gaudet, violin Anne Mousserion, cello
Rémi Durupt, conductor, vibraphone, piano
Music for 18 Musicians is approximate- ly 55 min utes long. The first sketches were made for it in May 1974 and it was completed in March 1976. Although its steady pulse and rhythmic energy re- late to many of my earlier works, its in- strumentation, structure and harmony are new.
As to instrumentation, Music for 18 Musicians is new in the number and distribution of instruments: violin, cel- lo, 2 clarinets doubling bass clarinet, 4 women’s voices, 4 pianos, 3 marim- bas, 2 xylophones and metallophone (vibraphone with no motor). All instru- ments are acoustical. The use of elec- tronics is limited to microphones for voices and some of the instruments.
There is more harmonic movement in the first 5 minutes of Music for 18 Musicians than in any other complete work of mine to date. Though the movement from chord to chord is of- ten just a re-voicing, inversion or rela- tive minor or major of a previous chord, usually staying within the key signa- ture of three shapes at all times, nev- ertheless, within these limits harmonic movement plays a more important role in this piece than in any other I have written.
Rhythmically, there are two basical- ly different kinds of time occurring si- multaneously in Music for 18 Musicians. The first is that of a regular rhyth- mic pulse in the pianos and mallet in- struments that continues throughout the piece. The second is the rhythm of the human breath in the voices and wind instruments. The entire open- ing and closing sections plus part of all sections in between contain puls- es by the voice and winds. They take a full breath and sing or play pulses of particular notes for as long as their breath will comfortably sustain them. The breath is the measure of the du- ration of their pulsing. This combina- tion of one breath after another grad- ually washing up like waves against the constant rhythm of the pianos and mal-
Music for 18 Musicians
let instruments is something I have not heard before and would like to investi- gate further.
The structure of Music for 18 Musicians is based on a cycle of eleven chords played at the very beginning of the piece and repeated at the end. All the instruments and voices play or sing the pulsating notes with each chord. In- struments like the strings which to not have to breath nevertheless follow the rise and fall of the breath by following the breathing patterns of the bass clar- inet. Each chord is held for the dura- tion of two breaths, and the next chord is gradually introduced, and so on, un- til all eleven are played and the ensem- ble returns to the first chord. The first pulsing chord is then maintained by two pianos and two marimbas. While this pulsing chord is held for about five minutes a small piece is construct- ed on it. When this piece is completed there is a sudden change to the sec- ond chord, and a second small piece or section is constructed. This means that each chord that might have tak- en fifteen or twenty seconds to play in the opening section is then stretched out as the basic pulsing melody for a five minute piece very much as a single note in a cantus firmus, or chant melo- dy of a 12th century Organum by Pero-
tin might be stretched out for several minutes as the harmonic centre for a section of the Organum. The opening eleven chord cycle of Music for 18 Mu- sicians is a kind of pulsing cantus for the entire piece.
On each pulsing chord one or, on the third chord, two small pieces are built. These pieces or sections are basically either in form of an arch (ABCDCBA), or in the form of a musical process, like that of substituting beats for rests, working itself out from beginning to end. Elements appearing in one sec- tion will appear in another but sur- rounded by different harmony and in- strumentation. For instance the pulse in pianos and marimbas in sections 1 and 2 changes to marimbas and xy- lophones in section 3A, and to xylo- phones and maracas in sections 6 and 7. The low piano pulsing harmonies of section 3A reappear in section 6 sup- porting a different melody played by different instruments. The process of building up a canon, or phase relation, between two xylophones and two pia- nos which first occurs in section 2, oc- curs again in section 9 but building up to another overall pattern in a differ- ent harmonic context. The relationship between the different sections is thus best understood in terms of resem-
blances between members of a family. Certain characteristics will be shared, but others will be unique.
Changes from one section to the next, as well as changes within each section are cued by the metallophone (vibra- phone with no motor) whose patterns are played once only to call for move- ments to the next bar, much as in Ba- linese Gamelan a drummer will audibly call for changes of pattern in West Af- rican Music. This is in contrast to the visual nods of the head used in earli- er pieces of mine to call for chang- es and in contrast also to the general Western practice of having a non-per- forming conductor for large ensem- bles. Audible cues become part of the music and allow the musicians to keep listening.
ied at the Juilliard School of Music with William Bergsma and Vincent Persi- chetti. Reich received his master’s de- gree in music from Mills College in 1963, where he worked with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud. His studies have also included Balinese gamelan, African drumming (at the University of Ghana), and traditional forms of chant- ing of the Hebrew scriptures.
Different Trains and Music for 18 Mu- sicians, as well as an album of his per- cussion works, have earned Grammy Awards, and Double Sextet won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Reich’s documentary video opera works – The Cave and Three Tales, done in collaboration with video artist Beryl Korot – have pushed the bound- aries of the operatic medium and have been presented on four continents.
Reich’s music has been performed by major orchestras and ensembles around the world, including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics; London, Sydney, San Francisco, Bos- ton, and BBC Symphony Orchestras, London Sinfonietta, Kronos Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble intercon- temporain, Ensemble Signal, Interna- tional Contemporary Ensemble, Bang
Steve Reich has been called “Ameri- ca’s greatest living composer” (Village Voice), “the most original musical think- er of our time” (The New Yorker), and
“among the great composers of the century” (The New York Times).
Reich’s musical legacy has been influ- ential on composers and mainstream musicians all over the world. His music is known for steady pulse, repetition, and a fascination with canons; it com- bines rigorous structures with propul- sive rhythms and seductive harmony and instrumental color.
Born in New York and raised there and in California, Reich graduated with honors in philosophy from Cornell Uni- versity in 1957. For the next two years, he studied composition with Hall Over- ton, and from 1958 to 1961, he stud-
In November 2018, Susanna Mälkki led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the world premiere of Reich’s Music for En- semble and Orchestra. His first orches- tral work in over 30 years, the piece is an extension of the Baroque concerto grosso, featuring a group of 20 soloists pulled from the orchestra’s ranks. In the current season, the work continues to tour to Europe and stateside, includ- ing the New York premiere performed by the New York Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden in December. Anoth- er recent work, Reich/Richter – Reich’s music for a film by Gerhard Richter and Corinna Belz – tours across the UK and Europe this season, with performances by the Britten Sinfonia, Ensemble inter- contemporain, Estonian National Sym- phony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic.
“There’s just a handful of living compos- ers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history and Steve Reich is one of them” (The Guardian).
on a Can All-Stars, Alarm Will Sound, and eighth blackbird. Several noted choreographers have created dances to his music, such as Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Jirí Kylián, Jerome Rob- bins, Justin Peck, Wayne McGregor, Benjamin Millepied, and Christopher Wheeldon.
Reich was awarded the Gold Med- al in Music by the American Acade- my of Arts and Letters in 2012. He was named Com