Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Less is less

Is anyone familiar with Steve Reich's Variations for Wind, Strings and Keyboards? This was one of the first 'minimalist ' works I heard and it made a great impression on me at the time, I suppose about 12 years ago. Now, listening to it again after a long gap, it strikes me as impressively monumental, fascinatingly colourful wallpaper. I am a stick-in-the-mud and I like to hear bit of a tune, even a Schoenberg tune if nothing else is on offer. And you ain't going to find tunes in Steve Reich. It just keeps on with those chattering woodwinds and majestic swelling brass chords, the endlessly flatwards harmonic circles and spirals - but it's like a compere warming up the audience for a star act that never happens. They keep saying "in just a few moments you will see X in the flesh, ladies and gentlemen'' while all the time the star dressing room is empty.

6 comments:

Bernard Hughes said...

I really like this piece. The swelling chords are beautifully placed, and unfold as a progression over the span of the piece.
An observation: the chords, and in particular the way they swell and recede in pairs, is very close to Bernard Herrmann's music for the opening of Taxi Driver. Have a listen and tell me it ain't so.

Andrew Lowe-Watson said...

I agree about the placing of the chords, Bernard, and I find the music rather thrilling and even moving, so why do I feel something is missing? Maybe I am wrong. It has influenced me more than a little, mainly in Marianne Dreams, which is not on Sibelius, but also in the orchestral piece I am writing now .

Andrew Lowe-Watson said...

And another thing: there is a suggestion of the changes of bell-ringing about the pentatonic 'theme' in the woodwind. I believe there is a piece by Gordon Crosse called Changes. He is one of my favourite neglected composers.

Surly Terrier said...

Andrew, I wish you could have heard Peter McAleer's "Streaming" during its short life on the SM site. I really do think it is an exciting piece. The descriptions in this post reminded me of it. You might be able to see it at Peter's site...

Bernard Hughes said...

I think Gordon Crosse is a favourite of Tim's as well. I don't know his music at all.

Andrew Lowe-Watson said...

Yes, I believe so. He has written at least one masterpiece, in my estimation, Ariadne, for oboe and ensemble, which I have mentioned somewhere in Chat and to which tim very helpfully gives a disc reference. I have a score and an LP. I will see whether I can copy any of it (for reference only). It really is a marvellous piece, and incredibly well written for the oboe.