Saturday, October 03, 2020

Liminal Minimal Hymnal

Welcome to The Tenth Month and the run-up to our 7th anniversary here.

We will kick it off with one of the greatest and most ultra-influential composers of our age.

He is turning 84 today, and is thankfully still alive and doing his thing, which over the course of the last 50 years has been, shall we say, widely imitated and tremendously appreciated.

Just how influential and appreciated, I hear you ask?

I know! How's about we allow the current occupant of my seat in the Oval Office -- right now, somewhere with an oxygen tank in the White House from the heretofore-hoaxed but realer-by-the-second COVID-19 -- to weigh in, courtesy of his humbly-titled 2009 book, Think Like a Champion.

"I remember reading about a composer named Steve Reich who came up with a new idea called phasing, which is like windshield wipers going in and out of synch. Apparently he was caught in a traffic jam one rainy day and the rhythm of the windshield wipers caught his attention and he applied what he heard to his musical compositions. He has had a significant influence on contemporary music, and I think he’s a great example of an innovator. Sometimes new ideas can come from something as mundane and functional as your windshield wipers. The key is to pay attention and keep your brain and senses open to new stimuli."

Now, before your brain is too atomized by that last paragraph, keep in mind it is likely ghostwritten and the Proud Boy POTUS does not spend his free time rocking Different Trains in between neofascist Twitter outbursts.

But the point is taken: even Donald Trump at least signed off on a public declaration of adoration for today's birthday guy. I'll let that sink in, and if anyone needs a bathroom break I'll be right here when you get back.

Stunning and unlikely as it is that Orange Julius Caesar has Tehillim on repeat in his iPod as he narcissistically commands the end of all civilization from his bunker, the in-print praise only underlines what we know to be the truth: there's almost no corner of the culturescape of the last five decades that Steve Reich hasn't influenced or helped to inspire in some way.

Like 1980s Talking Heads or King Crimson? Major Reich motivations. The infectious, repetitious throb of EDM? Guess who. And any number of Minimalist composers from Philip Glass -- he began as a performer in one of our hero's first groups -- to Glenn Branca owe a huge debt to Steve Reich, whose own music shimmers with interlocking brilliance in its own right, even if no one had ever absorbed his ethos and driven upon the roads he paved.

As I sit here, I wonder if the president is getting intubated somewhere, celebrating the Maestro's big day as Music for 18 Musicians burbles like a relaxing, subtly phaseshifting brook in the background, washing out the pollutants like a waterway protected by the Clean Water Act -- the original iteration of which was signed in 1972 by that notable hippie flower child, Richard M. Nixon -- ought to.

Steve Reich
Liminal Minimal Hymnal
broadcasts, 1970-1981

UC Berkeley Museum
Berkeley, California USA

01 introduction
02 Four Organs
03 introduction
04 My Name Is
05 introduction
06 Piano Phase
07 introduction
08 Phase Patterns
09 conclusion

Total time: 59:31

The Steve Reich Ensemble:
Steve Reich, Steve Chambers, Warner Jepson,
Art Murphy & John Gibson - organ, piano, tapes & percussion
conducted by Steve Reich

FLAC download from way back when had those;
probably an aircheck tape from KPFA-FM in Berkeley, CA
ORTF recordings
France, 1971-81

01 Piano Phase
02 Phase Patterns 
03 Clapping Music
04 Tehillim

Total time: 55:00

Track 01: Steve Reich & Art Murphy - pianos
Track 02: Steve Chambers, Philip Glass, John Gibson & Art Murphy - organs
"Semaines Musicales d’Orléans" Lycée de La Source, Orléans FR 3.14.1971
Track 03: Steve Reich Ensemble, conducted by Steve Reich
"Festival d’Automne" Salle Wagram, Paris FR 10.22.1976
Track 04: Steve Reich Ensemble, conducted by Steve Reich and directed by George Manahan
"Festival d’Automne" Opéra-Comique, Paris FR 9.24.1981

digital capture of a 2020 France Musique FM broadcast
337 MB FLAC here

Holland Festival
Royal Theater Carré
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

01 Music for Pieces of Wood intro
02 Music for Pieces of Wood (Tuned Cowbell version)
03 Violin Phase for Violin & 3 Tapes intro
04 Violin Phase for Violin & 3 Tapes
05 Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices & Organ intro
06 Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices & Organ
07 Music for a Large Ensemble intro
08 Music for a Large Ensemble

Total time: 1:11:08

The Steve Reich Ensemble
Reinbert De Leeuw & Steve Reich - conductors
with The Netherlands Wind Ensemble
Paul Holmes - FM narrator
Shem Gibbory - violin on Track 04
Marianne Bloch - voice on Track 06
Gerry de Vries & Dieuwke Aalbers - voices on Track 06 & 08

digital capture of the original Radio Nederland pre-FM reel
413 MB FLAC here

I put these up separately, so you can collect 'em all, a few, one or none. The sound quality throughout these is 100% indistinguishable from a legitimate release, save for perhaps the occasional radio introductions, which have been sequestered into their own tracks anyway in case you don't wanna hear them more than never.

I am gonna get after October here and see what I can whip up for your auditory stimulation, if not outright salvation. We'll do our best, at any rate, as long as the confounded Blogger tool doesn't put me off the bridge in digital despair.

Before all that though, we'll obviously send the very finest b'day wishes out to the maximal Minimalist Mr. Steve Reich, born this day in 1936 and in no danger of phasing out anytime soon. Long may his windshield wipers beat in shifting patterns of percussive delight!--J.


  1. Excellent stuff. I too D/L the UCLA performance about 15 years ago but lost it, it's only available to stream now as I'm sure you know. The French and Dutch gigs are new to me so I look forward to listening. Thanks very much and congrat's on a persistently wonderful blog.

    1. Billy by UCLA you mean the Berkeley, right? Thanks for the kind words; I will try to come back in October for the 8th anniversary of this page