Friday, 15 August 2014

Time bending; Steve Reich at the Proms.

This maze of cables means only one thing; BBC are outside broadcasting at The Proms.

I dragged poor old Robyn to hear a Steve Reich concert at the Proms; the father of minimalism. That's the kind of modern classical music that people make fun of.

It's all rhythm and little tune.

The first piece was a pioneering work from 1965 played on tape to an empty stage;

The after-hours late-night atmosphere is a fitting backdrop to the pulsing rhythmic repetitions of Minimalism’s founding father, Steve Reich. Relive the experimentation of It’s Gonna Rain – the tape piece that first put Reich on the map back in 1965 – its hypnotic layers of spoken sound transforming a street preacher into a strange, disembodied instrument.

The Desert Music twitches and throbs with life, offering a meditation on fragments of William Carlos Williams’s poetry. The BBC Singers are joined by contemporary specialists the Endymion ensemble
'It's gonna rain' was created with primitive tape recorders and tape loops playing with sounds and rhythm endlessly repeating. The tiny fluctuations morph into new sounds.

I was captivated - transported back to the 1965 when no one had ever heard anything like this. When there were no synthesisors, no samplers, no scratching and no multi-tracks. 

Yet 'It's gonna rain' pioneered all those sounds.

Then the BBC Singers came on with Endymion, a small orchestra to perform; 'Desert Music' (Music for 18 players), and that really blew my mind.

Here's conductor David Hill with Endymion;

Afterwards I talked to Robyn who'd struggled through it all without complaining. For her the pieces seemed to take much longer than the actual time they lasted.

The melodies, distilled into almost pure rhythm swirled and eddyed around the Albert Hall.

For me, The Desert Music's 48 minutes seemed to last for about 10 minutes.

Neat trick that, bending time.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)


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