Steve Reich 2×5 Remix Contest

Steve Reich

Remixers start your … laptops. Some hot-off-the-presses news about a contest beginning at noon TODAY!

Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Steve Reich, Nonesuch Records, and Indaba Music have launched a search for collaborators to remix the third movement from Reich’s 2×5. Paired with his Pulitzer prizewinning Double Sextet, the work appears on Reich’s new Nonesuch CD.

For four weeks beginning October 12, 2010 at noon, remixers can visit Indaba’s website to create their own version of the movement.

From November 9 to 23, fans and a panel of judges including Reich will review the submissions. Winners will be announced on December 7th. In addition to a grand prize and 2 runners-up selected by the jury, 10 honorable mentions will be selected by the public.

All jury selections will receive prizes, as follows:

Grand Prize (1)

$500

Signed copy of Double Sextet/2×5 CD

Signed copy of Double Sextet score

One-year free Platinum membership to Indabamusic.com

Runners-Up (2)

Signed copy of Double Sextet/2×5 CD

Signed copy of Double Sextet score

3-month Platinum membership to Indabamusic.com

Honorable Mentions (10)

Signed copy of Double Sextet/2×5 CD

Signed copy of Double Sextet score

3-month Pro memberships to Indabamusic.com

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Written for the Bang on a Can All Stars2×5 is Reich’s most overt foray into rock instrumentation to date. In my preview of the album, I noted that Reich’s collaboration with BoaC was “An intergenerational summit – minimalist elder statesman meets post-minimal/totalist ace performers – that, in terms of importance, is more or less the Downtown version of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.”

Now, another layer of creators will season the mix – I’m excited to hear the results!


Happy 75th Birthday Arvo Pärt

Arvo Pärt
Symphony No. 4

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Esa Pekka Salonen conductor
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Tõnu Kaljuste conductor

Symphony No. 4 “Los Angeles” (2008)
I Con sublimità
II Affannoso
III Deciso

Fragments from
Kanon Pokajanen (1997)

ECM New Series 2160

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt turned 75 yesterday. His record label ECM Records is celebrating his three-quarters of a century with two new recordings.

Pärt’s 4th Symphony is a long-anticipated follow-up to his 3rd – which was written back in 1971! In the interim, the composer has moved from a modernist style to an idiosyncratic version of minimalism; one the composer calls the “tintinnabuli” style of composition. From bell-like resonances and slowly moving chant melodies, Pärt has crafted a personal compositional language of considerable appeal. And while this has included a number of stirring instrumental works, such as Tabula Rasa and Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, more recently Pärt has been known for his choral music. His return to symphonic form is thus an opportunity to explore his mature language in a different milieu.

Perhaps in part as an acknowledgement of the home of the orchestra commissioning the Fourth Symphony – the “City of Angels” – Pärt decided to use a text as a formative – if subliminal – device in his preparations of the piece: the Canon of the Guardian Angel. Thus, while this is certainly not merely a transcription of a vocal piece – it sounds idiomatic and well orchestrated – there is a certain chant-like quality which demonstrates the symphony’s affinity with the vocal music and chant texts that are Pärt’s constant companions.

The live recording is of the work’s premiere in Disney Hall in LA. Salonen and the LA Phil give a muscular rendition of the piece, emphasizing its emphatic gestures while still allowing for the symphony’s many reflective, meditative oases to have considerably lustrous resonance. And while one can certainly hear a palpable connection to Pärt’s chant-inspired tintinnabuli pieces, the symphony also allows for dissonant verticals and melodic sweep that recalls both Pärt’s own Third Symphony and the works of other 20th century symphonists, from Gorecki to Shostakovich.

Perhaps in order to clearly attest to the connection between text and symphony, the disc is balanced out with a fifteen-minute serving of fragments from one of his important choral works from the 1990s: Kanon Pokajanen. The composer has pointed out the relationship between the canon that was his reference point for the symphony and the texts upon which the latter choral work was based.

He says, “To my mind, the two works form a stylistic unity and belong together. I wanted to give the words an opportunity to choose their own sound. The result, which even caught me by surprise, was a piece wholly pervaded by this special Slavonic diction found only in church texts. It was the canon that clearly showed me how strongly choice of language preordains a work’s character.”

Kaljuste and the Estonian Chamber Choir are seasoned handlers of Pärt’s works, having made a number of recordings of his music. They do not disappoint here, providing a performance that juxtaposes the ethereal eternity found in the texts with an earthy and corporeally passionate rendering of the music.

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In order to further fete Pärt, ECM also plans a lush reissue of their landmark 1984 recording, Tabula Rasa, complete with a generous accompanying book with newly commissioned essays about the composer.

We love advances

Steve Reich’s latest Nonesuch CD recently arrived, sans artwork in a little cardboard case. The disc features Double Sextet and 2×5, his collaborations with Eighth Blackbird and Bang on a Can. The former piece won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The latter is his most explicit use of rock instrumentation to date.

According to the Nonesuch site, it’s still in the “pre-order” phase of activities, so we’ll be good and hold off on a proper review ’til it’s closer to the actual release date (9/14).


Suffice it to say, if you’re a regular visitor to Sequenza 21, you’re likely going to want one, possibly three, copies of this recording. An intergenerational summit – minimalist elder statesman meets post-minimal/totalist ace performers – that, in terms of importance, is more or less the Downtown version of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.



Here’s some footage of Reich rehearsing BoaC:

Another kind of minimalism

Luc Ferrari

Didascalies 2

Sub Rosa LP

Obsessive, unpublished, etched in vinyl

Composer Luc Ferrari passed away in 2005. One of his last – unpublished – works, Didascalies 2 for two pianos and viola was premiered posthumously in 2008. This Sub Rosa LP includes both the dress rehearsal and premiere performance by pianists Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven & Claude Berset, and violist Vincent Royer.

Didascalies 2 is a fascinating piece in that it combines the repeated notes and ostinato passages of minimalism with passages of spiky dissonance and, towards its climax, an obsessively sustained, loud held note (courtesy of the viola). Ferrari’s use of repetition here presents at first like process music. But the angst of overlaid crunches and sudden blurs of chromaticism destabilizes any sense of the pattern being supported in the musical texture. Rather, it serves as a pugnacious and unrepentant irritant; an obsessive, nagging worry that won’t go away.

Eventually, when repeated notes give way to sustain in the piece’s last section, one hears a further level of defiant insistence. While one can trace affinities between this and the works of Louis Andriessen and Charlemagne Palestine, Didascalies 2 is a riveting message sent from beyond. Ferrari hasn’t gone gently into the night, and for that we should be abundantly grateful.


Guess what we’re watching in Minimalism class today?

Westminster Choir College just got the Naxos Video Library. While I think that it’s fair to say that NVL is still in its early stages of growth, it’s already proving to be a terrific teaching tool.

Lo and behold, one of the titles in the collection is the Staatsoper Stuttgart production of Philip Glass’ Satyagraha.

As one of my students mentioned in class yesterday, seeing the visual component is an important aspect of studying anyone’s operas. But it’s particularly key to understanding Glass’ theatre works: their interdisciplinary nature and their play with our perceptions of time, monumentality, and spectacle. I’m looking forward to discussing Satyagraha with them after we’ve viewed some of it.

Due to their recent production of the work, the Metropolitan Opera has some very helpful resources online, including the synopsis and libretto for the opera here.

Here’s a snippet of the Stuttgart production that someone posted on YouTube.


Here’s what the NY Times had to say about the Met production.

The Bare Minimal

My graduate history seminar on minimalism starts next week at Westminster Choir College. I’ll be teaching the course in a three-week intensive session – three hours a day/four days a week. In that time – just 12 meetings in all – we need to cover a lot of ground. There are three assigned texts: Minimalism: Origins by Edward Strickland, Repeating Ourselves by Robert Fink, and Music Downtown by Kyle Gann, as well as a number of supplemental readings (lots of Tom Johnson) and listening assignments.

Each student will be required to make a class presentation and write a substantial research paper. Those in the group who like to compose will write a minimal piece for the class to perform. In an exciting development, one of my students, who is a high school choir director, has already been in touch with Terry Riley’s “people” about Another Secret eQuation, his recent choral piece for young people, and will be researching it for her paper.

While I’ve been thinking about and prepping the course for a long while, I’m, of course, curious about what the Sequenza 21 community thinks. What do you consider to be an “all killer/no filler” listening list for graduate students studying minimalism – many of them for the first time. The comments section is open!

By the way, those who are interested may feel free to contact me after the class is over for a set of the handouts/slides.

New Recording of In C: GVSU live at LPR

Hot on the heels of their Innova release In C Remixed, Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble has made a new recording of Terry Riley’s In C. A 2009 live date at Le Poisson Rouge, it features composer/producer/laptop musician Dennis DeSantis alongside the ensemble in a 65-minute rendition of the piece.

This version is different from the material on the Innova disc. It takes some of DeSantis’ remixing and electronica talents that were briefly on display there and blows them up to a full, intensely interactive, electro-tinged In C for 2010.

The release is available digitally via Ghostly International. Previously known as a quirk pop/electronica outfit, this is the label’s first foray into concert music. One hopes that its the first of many!

They’ve been kind enough to allow us to share a five-minute selection of the performance here.

In C (excerpt)