Disquiet Junto Project 0249: Happy Birthday, Steve Reich [repost]

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

Although Suss Müsik proudly cites Steve Reich as an inspirational pioneer, we admit to a bit of frustration at the way audiences overlook the conceptual depth of Reich’s more emotive works. Different Trains, written in 1988 for string quartet and tape, uses recorded interviews with family members and Holocaust survivors as its melodic framework. Reich creates a parallel between trips he took as a youth and the shuttling of six million Jews to German concentration camps. Taken as a totality, inflections of speech form a beautiful and sometimes uncomfortable coupling, a musical documentary captured as personal snapshot. The effect transcends minimalism into something haunting and didactic (in a good way); even three decades later, hearing the swell of strings behind “But today, they’re all gone” sends shivers up the spine.

In homage to Mr. Reich, this piece uses four marimba patterns played in unison, alternating pauses between bars at random moments. A gently plucked guitar creates the harmonic structure, not unlike the motif in Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians signaling that a transition is about to take place. The guitar is played with a jar of rocks on the fretboard and run through a Boss Terra Echo TE-3. The marimbas eventually reveal a phased loop of birds chirping, which were recorded just outside Suss Müsik studios (the weather today was gorgeous). The piece ends with a single marimba phased at the same rate as the birds’ pattern, everything fading into a metallic sheen of acoustic percussion recorded with plenty of reverb.

This excerpt is part of a longer piece still in development entitled Misophonia. The piece is named after a clinical term describing the negative reaction some people have to repetitive noises like dripping water, chewing gum, the tapping of a pencil, etc. The image is an egg.

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