The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman etc.

11-8-07 Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman etc.

Lately, I have been re-visiting my interest in 20th century classical music – with artists such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, etc.

What awoke my initial interest in “process music” per se was hearing “North Star” by Philip Glass, about 1977 or so. Likely a “promo copy” came my way, as I was a youth working in a record store. In short order, I learned that the Philip Glass Ensemble had other LP’s that were available. I quickly found “Music With Changing Parts” and “Music In Similar Motion”, LP’s on Glass’ own Chatham Square label – no doubt sold to wherever I bought them by the New Music Distribution Service (do they still exist?).

Perhaps someone told me that Steve Reich was similar to Philip Glass – I do not remember. But I think the first Reich title I found (or tried) was his “Come Out To Show Them” piece, where the spoken phrase gradually goes in / out of synch. After hearing “It’s Gonna Rain” – another piece in the same style as “Come Out To Show Them”, I was ready to try anything with Reich’s name on it – which wasn’t many titles in the 70’s!

Reich’s “Drumming” 2LP boxed set had one piece that interested me greatly, “Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ” – wow! The next Glass LP I could find was his “Music In 12 Parts” – but it was a mere 2 sides long – only 4 of the 12 parts! The world’s first CD issue of this finally gave us all 12 parts, sometime in the late 80’s.

I did manage to see the Philip Glass Ensemble at The Roxy in Hollywood. I remember him asking the audience to not smoke during the performance, as it made it difficult for the musicians to “play the music”.

Steve Reich signed to the German jazz label ECM; it was easy to find “Octet” and “Music for 18 Musicians” (which was re-recorded in the 90’s) – impressive works, well-recorded! It’s safe to say that the Chicago band Tortise heard and enjoyed these works.

Michael Nyman’s initial release was “Decay Music” on Eno’s Obscure Records, a nifty set of 10 LP’s release towards the end of the 70’s. While I was not enthusiastic about “Decay Music”, I ordered the self-titled 1980 (1981?) Michael Nyman LP on the Piano label – and I just loved it. Not sure how I would’ve approached, had I not already been familiar with the ensemble works of Mr. Glass and Mr. Reich.

Steve Reich is the only composer of the three being discussed here to not fully embrace soundtrack work. But his discography is mighty – and I think there is some stage work in there, however. Michael Nyman has scored dozens of films, some notably for director Peter Greenaway.

I feel comfortable discussing these composers together. What do you think of them? Have you heard anything more than merely a cursory exposure to these artists?


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Systems Music

Of the big three, I still haven't heard Steve Reich. Though I also saw the PGE on their 1985 tour. Absolutely the best sounding concert I have ever heard.

How about Mikel Rouse?

5:26 AM  

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