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Steve Reich – the Cave, The Barbican, last night.

October 6th, 2006 | No Comments | Categories: Musing on Music |

A lovely evening last night, spent with Todd Reynolds – violinist extraordinaire, who’s in town playing violin as part of Steve Reich’s ensemble in the concert series celebrating Steve’s 70th birthday. Last night’s show was The Cave, a multimedia piece based in interviews with Jews, Muslims and Americans from lots of backgrounds about Abraham and the story of his first two sons – Ishmael and Isaac. The music is all based on the rhythms and cadences of the voices, and as such changes time signature, key and tempo every couple of bars. Without doubt some of the most insanely complex and difficult to perform music I’ve ever come across. I can’t even begin to imagine how they pulled it off. The conductor, Brad Lubman, was outstanding, conducting in different meters with each hand, cueing the singers, seemingly random piano chords, and the rest of the ensemble. By no means an easy experience, largely due to it’s length and the changes in time, the music itself was actually fairly accessible, probably because the vocal cadences humanised the whole thing.

And once again, it confirmed for me what an incredible musician Todd is – having now seen him play with his former quartet, Ethel, with Joe Jackson and Todd Rungren, play solo at the Recycle Collective, improvising at the RC, playing ‘lead guitar’ with the Michael Gordon band, and now this crazy music with Steve Reich, he’s clearly one of the most remarkable musicians I’ve ever encountered. And one of my favourite people. Leo and I went down early to meet Todd for dinner before the gig, which was truncated by a 6.30 soundcheck, but after the gig Todd and Conductor-Brad both came over to the pub for a drink before heading out to Steve Reich’s birthday celebrations. A marvellous evening all round, great people, amazing music, out of this world playing and conducting, and fantastic company in the form of Leo, Todd, Brad and Julian (Seigel – top sax bloke who was at the gig too, and met us in the pub after). Great stuff.

There are a few more Steve Reich gigs on – go if you can. He’s America’s most important living composer of New Music, and a huge influence on so many people – when I was 17 and studying music AS level, he was composer of the week radio 3, and I recorded it every day and listened to those tapes over and over, writing a series of minimalist-style pieces, including a serial minimalist piece for cello and marimba, that I remember being quite good, but my memory is pretty much certainly better than the actual thing… Still, the shifting textures of so much of Steve’s work is there in much of the loop stuff I do, so it was great to finally see some of his music live.

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