Music for pieces of wood
All three pieces presented on this disc find their roots in ideas explored in Steve Reich’s earliest acknowledged work, It’s Gonna Rain, a 17-minute composition for magnetic tape composed in 1965. In this seminal work Reich discovered the techniques that became the kernel for his entire body of work to the present day, and some of the defining features of the minimalist aesthetic repetition, pulse, a pre-occupation with speaking patterns, and variation by a process known as ‘phasing’. Phasing one of the most distinctive features of Reich’s compositional language is conceptually relatively simple to describe, but can create a vast range of musical patterns from consonant rhythmic unison, to intricate, complex counterpoint. In its most basic form, phasing consists of two identical looping patterns, one of which remains fixed whilst the other gradually shifts out of unison, allowing a single pattern to be heard superimposed against itself in all possible permutations. The technique is perceived by the listener as a gradual process, transforming from a subtle echo to a complex canonic effect. The process finishes when the shifting pattern and the fixed pattern sound in unison again after one complete cycle. In It’s Gonna Rain, a fixed tape work, the phasing process was achieved electronically through the manipulation of two identical tape loops. It soon became a pre-occupation of Reich’s to see if this inherently mechanistic procedure could be achieved in live performance by musicians. The technique was first scored for live performance in Reich’s Piano Phase (1967) and then further refined in the works Phase Patterns (1970) and Clapping Music (1972).