Monday, 14 March 2016

Steve Reich - Drumming/Six Pianos/Music For... (rec. 1974)

Steve Reich's earliest large-scale work, Drumming was composed following a 1970 trip to Ghana to learn from a master percussionist.  Having notated some of the massively complex drum patterns that he'd heard, Reich decided that this was the way to go forward with the interlocking phase patterns that he'd already tried out on a smaller scale.

As with most of Reich's music, from the 70s in particular, Drumming is just a simple joy to listen to and get lost in the gradually shifting patterns.  Starting off with tuned bongo drums that continually hint at melody, the second section uses the same rhythms but scored for marimbas.  This part of Drumming is my absolute favourite, especially the two major changes to the patterns at the 8 and a half minute mark and again at the 20 minute mark.  The third section takes the music up a register with tinkling glockenspiels, followed by a finale with the whole ensemble.

These recordings were originally released in 1974 as a 3LP set on Deutsche Grammophon - one of the advantages of the CD era is that you can listen to Drumming Pts. 1-3 uninterrupted, rather than changing vinyl sides for each one.  The supporting pieces are the self-descriptive Six Pianos - try it with some sort of reverb effect to approximate the intermingling sound that Reich was aiming for in a large concert hall - and then a final ensemble work that doesn't really go anywhere, but does it very nicely and soothingly. Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ is actually the most prescient pointer to where Reich was about to go in the years that followed, in much more accomplished forms.

CD 1 
CD 2

alt links 1 | 2

21 comments:

  1. Thanks! I have this on vinyl from back in the day. I could do a needle drop, but this saves me a ton of work. Thanks!

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  2. Great Reich! Thanks a bunch!

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  3. Great Reich! Thanks a bunch!

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  4. Like a previous commentator, I bought this years back and have been too lazy to listen to it lately. 'Drumming' blew my socks off when I heard a performance broadcast on Radio 3 in what must have been the early 80s, particularly the moments where the near-monochrome part 1 dissolves into colour at the start of part 2. Part 3, on the other hand, I find frankly annoying - too tinkly by half, and it seems to be there more for theoretical reasons than anything else - but part 4 makes a masterful conclusion.

    Thanks for the fantastic blog, great to see someone writing with such enthusiasm about such an eclectic and interesting selection of music.

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  5. hey alan would you mind emailing me a copy of just music for mallet instruments please? thanks a million buddy!

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    1. no probs - done!

      (both zip files also reupped)

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    2. Hi Alan!

      CD1 doesn't appear to exist any more, perchance a bad link after your re-up? Curious to hear this.

      Cheers,

      Will.

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    3. Hi Alan!

      CD1 doesn't appear to exist any more, perchance a bad link after your re-up? Curious to hear this.

      Cheers,

      Will.

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  6. Brilliant, many thanks Alan - very appreciated. Keep it up, this site is a blessing.

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    1. no worries Will. just noticed the ostrich - nice one.

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  7. Link 2 is down now. :/

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  8. link to cd1 is down. thanks.

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  9. Hello. Just arrived at your blog. CD2 seems to be down. Can you re-up. Can't find any other links elsewhere so that would be really crucial if you can take the trouble. Thank you for such a marvelous blog!

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  10. Much appreciated!!!

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  11. thanks homes.
    much obliged

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