Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Loopy in midtown

Just back from the amazing NYPL with Steve Reich's 1985 Sextet. Can't say I'm expert on minimalist music, but still - surprised I haven't heard much about this one.

It's a beauty - Reich's usual coolly pulsing vibraphones and pianos wedded with (weirdly appealing) dated synths and ghostly bowed percussion that must look beautiful in performance. Not sure what it sounds like on good speakers, but here on cheap JBLs in my little white-walled office, it has a special poignancy.

I don't have the time or language to get too in depth on what's making this so good, but there's definitely something special about the use of dissonance (albeit mild), which is, I think, somewhat rare in this sort of music.

What I want to know is: Why?

I understand minimalism developed partly in reaction to the ultra-dissonant, rhythmically spastic pieces coming out of Europe mid-century, but still: I figure if you're gonna repeat phrases endlessly as the minimalists do, harmonic complexity might actually be unusually welcome.

Anyone know any good examples of music that done this? Andriessen? The Bang on a Can folks? If no info is forthcoming, I'll, erm, gather evidence and get back to you.

Commence breath holding.

3 comments:

alice said...

thanks, jake. i am listening to sextet now. liking it a lot so far. i have a feeling you are going to have to do the legwork regarding your question though.

alice said...

i just re-read that post. it's really good.
don't you think it's great how we pat each other's backs in a public forum? classy.

maureen said...

classy, indeed. hats off, you two! i'll continue to read your musings.