Nine years ago when I was in Copenhagen, I happened to be there during the Jazz Festival. There were live concerts and performances everywhere, along with no prohibitions on enjoying a beer in public places. I wrote then about how much I enjoyed, indeed was mesmerized by, a group performing a piece by Steve Reich.
I had no idea what was being performed, but I loved it. The atmosphere was relaxed and, I am reluctant to use this term, "mellow" at the outdoor venue, with people coming and going, drinking beer, eating ice cream, and enjoying themselves. People's heads were bobbing in unison to the rhythm; and then there would be a chaotic interlude to the head-bobbing as the music developed a different cadence.
For some reason I was reminded of the music of Steve Reich last February and wrote about it again then.
Over the past few days, I have been thinking about the music of Steve Reich some more. For some reason I had not come across his "Music for 18 Musicians" before, but I think that might have been the piece I enjoyed so much back in Copenhagen.
It lasts for a approximately an hour. It is a very slowly evolving piece with a pulsing, driving underlying rhythm that captivates me. Apparently it captivates others as well. Someone wrote about it:
I put it on as a signal that it was time for my guests to leave, but they insisted on staying to listen to it again.
There is a good post about this piece here. It has some excellent commentary. One snippet:
Groups of instruments expose hypnotic melodic patterns adding a new note every so often – the opposite of traditional practice of linear fragmentation and variation. Slowly evolving melodic figures are set over fixed cadences, with the resulting magical effect of varying that which is unchanging. This gradual development of each melodic pattern reconstitutes our sense of time so that we genuinely begin to value each new note; time really does seem to freeze during a performance. No wonder, then, that Reich, rather than Philip Glass, has won a reputation as “the thinking man’s minimalist” – in place of the interminable, meditative scales and arpeggios of his aesthetic colleague, he reinvigorates the emotional potential of tonality and the musical satisfaction of large-scale form within a trance-inducing and crystalline soundscape.
Here are some links to several different full-length performances of the piece on youtube. Download one and give it a listen. You, too, will likely be mesmerized.