re: Steve Reich at 70 [new music news / response]
responsive to Norman Lebrecht's good article "A subtext for deepening confusions: Steve Reich at 70" (in La Scena Musicale)
Enjoyable as the profile of Steve Reich is (and as vital as Reich is) -- and good to learn details of his latest project -- I thought Norman Lebrecht a bit nonsensical in some of his lionizing of the composer, e.g.
Some critics have acclaimed these collaborations as a template for the operatic future, ignoring the inimitability of Reich’s method in combining recorded materials, philosophical teachings, original sound and political engagement.not to mention the rhetorical end-flourish --
And which other composer, I wonder, is working on a musical subtext for our deepening confusions?
um -- well one is Phil Glass. (One cannot but wish the two guys might have a chat sometime, after all.) Others might include John Adams, Meredith Monk, and some others of kindred ilk. Reich's self-comparisons to Bach and Picasso need not (I'd say) be begrudged. But anyway, he was undoubtedly the beneficiary of a pervasive and influential scene (or la scena, if you prefer -- including antecedent/contemporary minimalist harbingers like Terry Riley and LaMonte Young) -- a scene that made the positive reception of Reich's early innovations possible (just as it presumably helped make some of his creative leaps possible). Why paint the artist as an isolated island? The cartoon mythology of the singular towering genius is dumbly played out by an otherwise perceptive writer (though he also rather missteps in charactderizing Reich's music as "simple" -- as if rhythmic complexity doesn't register on the scale?) But I've not been reading The Lebrecht weekly column -- so don't know what dragons he shadowboxes with. (On the face of it, the point I mention hints at a touch of intellectual laziness; but maybe it's susceptible of other analyses or explanations.)
Still and all, the Daniel Variations (the work combining material from Daniel Pearl and the Book of Daniel -- world-premiering at London's Barbican Centre in October, with the wonderful cellist Maya Beiser) sounds promising indeed. The seriousness of Reich, and his unique relationship to / distinctive approach to the subject -- and the culturally crucial and iconic character of the subject of meditation -- point toward what might prove among Reich's more provocative and significant works.
How it plays out, what he manages to wrest or construct from those challenging materials, is something one awaits hearing. One hopes it gets heard widely and talked about much.
See Reich @ 70 for concert details related to October celebrations of the composer's 70th birthday.
Philosophical Puzzler Hovering in the Background (on reading Lebrecht's piece):
How exactly is it that one may expect combatants in profound global or Middle Eastern morasses to sit down and converse -- if even Steve Reich and Philip Glass are so patently disinclined to make peace with one another?Of course, Lebrecht's parenthetical report that the rival composers (eternally linked in the realm of newsprint) have not spoken with one another for the past 40 years, might be inaccurate or exaggerated. And naturally, it's none of my business. ;-) Even so, such a question may arise for the thoughtful reader betimes. (On the positive side: perhaps they demonstrate an archetype of the two state solution? Diplomatic relations may be at nadir, but peaceful coexistence is at zenith.)
As Reich remarked (when I interviewed him on the phone 24 years ago -- though not speaking in the above context): basta