Artist: LSO Percussion Ensemble
Title: Reich: Sextet, Music for Pieces of Wood, Clapping Music
Release Date: 2016
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
The Society of Sound and the LSO Percussion Ensemble celebrate the music of Steve Reich. This release marks a new development in the relationship between the LSO Live and Bowers and Wilkins.
Until now, all LSO recordings released on the Society of Sound have been from the existing LSO Live catalogue. The Reich project marks a significant new development, as it is the first of a series of projects, sponsored by Bowers and Wilkins, which will initially be available exclusively to members of The Society of Sound.
This project is also a significant new development for the LSO and LSO Live. LSO principal players are all exceptional soloists and we have been looking for a way to celebrate this on record. Bowers and Wilkins offer to sponsor a series of chamber music recordings has provided the perfect solution and this is the first of them.
A recording of three works by Steve Reich may seem a radical repertoire choice, but it highlights perfectly a group of players within the orchestra who do not often get the star billing they deserve.
Steve Reich is an American minimalist composer who, in the words of Andrew Clements writing in The Guardian, is one of “a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history”. He is considered by many musicians — particularly percussionists — to be America’s greatest living composer. His musical language has always focussed on rhythmic rather than harmonic complexity, so three of his percussion pieces are a good way to launch the series.
Clapping Music :: This is probably the ultimate minimalist composition consisting of just two performers clapping. One performer claps a basic rhythm, a variation of the African bell pattern in 12/8 time for the whole piece. The other claps the same pattern but after every 8 or 12 bars shifts one eigth note to the right. This continues for 144 bars until the two performers are finally back in unison again. The result is a unique piece of both mesmeric complexity and profound simplicity. The performers are the LSO’s two percussion principals Neil Percy and Sam Walton.
Music for Pieces of Wood :: To understand the piece, imagine listening to a kaleidoscope. A pattern is established, then it shifts as with the click of the kaleidoscope. Steve Reich descibes it as follows: ‘Music for Pieces of Wood grows out of the same roots as Clapping Music: a desire to make music with the simplest possible instruments. The claves, or cylindrical pieces of hard wood, used here were selected for their particular pitches (A, B, C-sharp, D-sharp, and D-sharp an octave above), and for their resonant timbre. This piece is one of the loudest I have ever composed, but uses no amplification whatsoever. The rhythmic structure is based entirely on the process of rhythmic “build-ups” or the substitution of beats for rests, and is in three sections of decreasing pattern length: 6/4, 4/4, 3/4. —
Sextet :: The piece has five movements played without pause. It tries to overcome a natural acoustic limitation of percussion instruments. Vibraphones are normally incapable of sustaining pitches like wind or string instruments. To counter this limitation, the performers bow the vibraphone bars with a bass bow. The piece is all about ambiguity. In the third movement, a basic 12-beat pattern is ambiguous between a division into three and into four. In other parts the line that began as the melody becomes the accompaniment, even though the actual notes do not change. Reich believes that, in music that uses a great deal of repetition, it is precisely these kinds of ambiguity that give vitality and life.
This may well be the most vital and life enhancing recording to appear on the Society of Sound. Open your ears and prepare to be amazed!
- Clapping Music – 3:37
- Music for Pieces of Wood – 11:42
- Sextet: I. Crotchet = 192 – 11:09
- Sextet: II. Crotchet = 96 – 4:32
- Sextet: III. Crotchet = 64 – 2:34
- Sextet: IV. Crotchet = 96 – 3:32
- Sextet: V. Crotchet = 192 – 6:01
- Sextet (combined as 1 movement) – 27:48