Steve Reich Drumming might just change your mind about minimalism

by Elizabeth Kerr / 16 July, 2018
Colin Currie: a devotee of composer Steve Reich. Photo/Linda Nylind

Colin Currie: a devotee of composer Steve Reich. Photo/Linda Nylind

The debut release from a new label, Colin Currie Records, is a cracker. Brilliant playing, an iconic composition and excellent engineering combine in Steve Reich Drumming to offer 55 minutes of unfaltering energy and excitement.

Reich, from the first wave of American musical minimalists, is acclaimed as one of Western music’s most influential living composers. According to John Adams, one of his highest-profile inheritors, he “didn’t reinvent the wheel so much as show us a new way to ride”.

Drumming was composed in 1970/71, and in 2006, Scottish percussionist Colin Currie pulled together his virtuosic eponymous group to play the work for a BBC celebration of Reich’s 70th birthday. It’s been a pillar of the group’s repertoire ever since and this studio recording, reportedly from 32 takes, is a fitting launch for the new label.

The piece is classic minimalism; the compositional process is worked out beforehand, the whole developed from a single drum rhythm with Reich’s trademark out-of-step “phasing”. Four players begin on four sets of bongos, the rhythm increasing in complexity; a second section for three marimbas seamlessly overlaps the first, women’s voices reinforcing the timbre. Another overlap shifts us into the music-box world of glockenspiels, with piccolo and whistling, and just when it all seems too high, spare and discordant, Reich puts it all together with the rich texture of the whole 11-musician ensemble.

Time passes quickly, the music pouring forth in both an audible process and what Reich calls “mysteries – the impersonal, unintended, psychoacoustic by-products of the intended process”. These cross-rhythms and apparent new melodies contribute to an edifice of, in Currie’s words, “delicacy, audacity and power”. If minimalism hasn’t rung your bell yet, this release may signal your conversion.

Steve Reich Drumming, Colin Currie Group, Synergy Vocals (Colin Currie Records)

★★★★★

This article was first published in the July 7, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

The new What We Do in the Shadows is more dad joke than demonic
104712 2019-04-19 00:00:00Z Television

The new What We Do in the Shadows is more dad joke…

by Diana Wichtel

Diana Wichtel reviews a new American TV series based on the hit Kiwi comedy.

Read more
Louis & Louise is a satisfying exploration of gender and identity
104230 2019-04-19 00:00:00Z Books

Louis & Louise is a satisfying exploration of gend…

by Brigid Feehan

In her latest novel, Julie Cohen traces the parallel male and female lives of a single character.

Read more
Win a copy of Sir David Attenborough's Life on Earth: 40th Anniversary Edition
104844 2019-04-19 00:00:00Z Win

Win a copy of Sir David Attenborough's Life on Ear…

by The Listener

To celebrate Sir David Attenborough season on Sky, we are giving away copies of his book Life on Earth: 40th Anniversary Edition.

Read more
The Kiwi behind the powerful Aspen Institute's Queenstown launch
104788 2019-04-18 09:00:50Z Profiles

The Kiwi behind the powerful Aspen Institute's Que…

by Clare de Lore

Thanks to the determination of Christine Maiden, NZ has joined an international leadership network that aims to work on issues important to the future

Read more
Science must trump ideology in the GE debate
104784 2019-04-18 08:52:29Z Politics

Science must trump ideology in the GE debate

by The Listener

A New Zealand-developed super-grass that appears to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions might be blocked in this country by the Green Party.

Read more
Simon Bridges hails PM Jacinda Ardern's capital gains tax u-turn as victory
104803 2019-04-18 00:00:00Z Politics

Simon Bridges hails PM Jacinda Ardern's capital ga…

by Jo Moir

The National Party is calling the u-turn on a capital gains tax a massive failure for the Prime Minister.

Read more
John Campbell is replacing Jack Tame on TVNZ's Breakfast show
104860 2019-04-18 00:00:00Z Television

John Campbell is replacing Jack Tame on TVNZ's Bre…

by Noted

The TV network is switching things up - again.

Read more
John Lanchester’s ecological-dystopian tale about a barricaded Britain
104431 2019-04-18 00:00:00Z Books

John Lanchester’s ecological-dystopian tale about…

by Catherine Woulfe

The Wall may be speculative fiction, but it feel like it's just round the corner.

Read more