Thursday, May 14, 2009

Section VII of Music for 18 Musicians

I've given listening to Steve Reich a rest since the 33 1/3 thing fell through, which reminds me:

Congrats to Joe Bonomo, Aaron Cohen and Scott Tennet, folks I've worked or conversed with or are at least Facebook friends with, on making the final list. These guys are the bomb and their thoughts on AC/DC, Aretha Franklin, and Slint respectively will no doubt prove to be revelatory

But Reich... on the weeks leading up to the final decision I listened to the original 1979 recording at least once a day, bending my thinking around the contours of this piece, figuring out what to say on those long stretches of road. They are still tucked away, fermenting into a more powerful liquor should an occasion arise calling for it.

I can say that listening to this 1998 recording (listen) Mr. Reich and his crew recorded is markedly different experience. The tones are richer, more saturated. The instruments bleed into each other more, and because of it, the moaning undertones become the driver.

Section VII, in the original recording, was where the Music, if it can be considered a character in the drama unfolding, stands upright, as if the leading movements were phases of an evolutionary diorama. It was where the Music finally had a vantage point to survey where it had been and where it was going. In this second version recorded two decades after Reich and "minimalism" was a familiar pattern in the tapestry of contemporary sound, the Music in Section VII is forlorn, humming its base (or bass) melody with a gravity it didn't have in its younger years.

It is like the difference in how you look at your house when you are twenty and when you are forty, suddenly the walls and floors are not just things to butt up against or hide behind, but are platforms that shape the actions that take place there. It is no longer simply about action but instead is about how can we coax action out of the given circumstances, who we can channel reaction. I think the action in the latter situation has a longer life, its resonances are greater because the reactions we have are against ourselves and not the world, the messages it has to impart bear a deeper wisdom imbued with idealism and pragmatism in balanced measure; but, they are usually not quite as exciting. I will probably stick with the 1979 recording as a companion at the ready on my iPhone for when the aprticles in the air around me need a charge, but its good to know that the meaning of messages heard in the flame of youth evolve and gain a greater warmth if you keep listening.

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