Steve Reich, Carnegie Hall. Review by Julia Pascal.


The evening started with Steve Reich and Colin Currie performing the 1970 Clapping Music which was a strong taster for what was to come. Reich’s sparse musical aesthetic of four human hands clapping has a naked quality. It was followed by the 2013 Quartet for two pianos and two xylophones, with its staccato, jagged opening, its moody second section and its hypnotic resolution. After the interval it was back to the early seventies for Drumming which was the most substantial part of this performance.

Seeing and hearing Reich’s work in New York, and watching him onstage, reminds me of how the city has birthed his originality.  His music is seductive in its subtle geometric patterning and   shifting  repetitions so that cumulative effect evokes an almost trance like reaction. As he adds and subtracts his musicians to the aural landscape, he produces complex musical helixes. It is hard to disassociate Reich’s genius from Trisha Brown’s choreography and the 70s New York artists whose creativity also comes from the Manhattan grids.  His unique ability to provoke sensation and emotions with his richly austere composition makes the work timeless.

Reich’s Jewish background has been an important study in his contrapuntal style.  Reich creates an almost-Talmudic level of musical questions without answers: an accumulation of multiple connected possibilities producing a new musical language.  At the end of the evening I could see that the audience, although seated, appeared to be dancing.

Julia Pascal © October 2014.