1. A brief interview with the composer Steve Reich who talks about contemporary music.
“A lot of people who use computers are gonna come up with junk; most of the people who use notation came up with junk, too. But there are the Brian Enos – people who have imagination for a new way of working that fits with their intuitive gifts – that come up with great stuff. A few things will turn out to be enduring. Well made, and in a new way.”
Here is part one of Reich’s “Radio Rewrite” which is based on a song by Radiohead.
2. A brief documentary the follows DJ Diplo’s project Major Lazer on a trip to Jamaica where they meet the legendary producer King Jammy, composer of the original “Sleng Teng” rhythm that ushered in digital dancehall music.
“If you confidently own the uniqueness of your voice, people will love you.”
3. An article about the hardcore music scene in New York City in the early 1980s.
“Hardcore was born as a double-negative genre: a rebellion against a rebellion. The early punks were convinced that rock and roll had gone wrong and were resolved to put it right, deflating arena-rock pretension with crude songs and rude attitudes (…) The idea was to out-punk the punks, thereby recapturing the wild promise of the genre, with its tantalizing suggestion that rock music should be something more than mere entertainment—that it should, somehow, pose a threat to mainstream culture.”
4. A trailer for an upcoming documentary about the xylophone music of the Sambla Baan people of Burkina Faso.
“The concept was: ‘Utilizing elements of modern French music represented by composers such as Debussy and Ravel, along with the hardcore music of the ’80s and ’90s (…) and mixing them in a style reminiscent of Detroit techno.” – Akira Kawasaki
I recently came across some music that reminds me of what it might sound like if pianists from Steve Reich’s ensemble had quit and formed an aggressive yet melodic band with just keys and drums. Mouse On The Keys, from Japan, is a trio of drummer/keyboardist Akira Kawasaki, keyboardist Daisuke Niitome, and keyboardist Atsushi Kiyota. On the tracks on their recording Machinic Phylum, they make a syncopated instrumental music that’s been described by one critic as a blend of “minimalist classical music with hard-hitting rock” (Hashim Bharoocha, redbullmusicacademy.com) and by one YouTube viewer as “an insane instrumental band.” The band’s sound has a vigorous, expansive quality to it, exploring unusual meters beyond 4/4 and jazz-inflected chord changes played with muscle.
The recording’s first track, “Aom,” is fiery, refusing to settle into a predictable groove–it keeps shifting as the two pianos and drums interlock and play in one another’s off-beats, maintaining a constant sense of tension. But the manic funk is just part of the group’s equation. From 1:53-2:45 the piece takes flight on a six beat feel, the piano chords modulating to ever further keys. When the piece returns to its opening section, the concept Kawasaki described–a style that would blend hardcore punk, French piano music, and Detroit techno–sounds about right.
You can read an interview with Kawasaki here.
One mark of a composer’s influence is how often their sound reappears in the work of other artists. By this metric, the American composer Steve Reich has been highly influential. His pulsating, percussive soundworld is pervasive in the music of both his imitators and heirs alike.
The Canadian electronic musician Tim Hecker makes creative use of Reich’s early piece “Piano Phase” on his recent track, “Live Room.” The piece begins with a slow and jagged repetition of Piano Phase’s twelve note minor key pattern. The piano part, swamped in reverb and delay effects and repeating like a stubborn music box, is gradually joined by Hecker’s signature ambient processed guitar and keyboard sounds as well as acoustic sounds (winds and strings) specially recorded for this project. Layers of noise, long tone drones, and slow moving chords build to create a sensation of being in a massive cathedral. As Ian Maleney describes the track at residentadvisor.net, its sounds “build awkwardly towards strange and jagged peaks before crumbling into patches of desolation that are both beautiful and painful.” Eventually the Piano Phase piano reference fades out and the ambient harmonies are lush, revealing Reich’s music to have been a point of departure for new musical landscapes. By the track’s end, a few long woodwind tones have emerged as the last sounds standing, and “Live Room” seamlessly segues into the next track, “Live Room Out.”
Here is Reich’s “Piano” phase and Hecker’s “Live Room” and “Live Room Out”: