Sunday, September 25, 2005

"as music goes, so we go"

Today two great American minimalist composers were featured prominently in news stories. Steve Reich was profiled this morning on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, talking about the release of a new CD, You are (variations). Reich discusses some of his varied influences: African drumming, Balinese gamelan, Hebrew cantilation, jazz, Bach... He also coins a new word (to me, at least): voicestrument, the fusing of a vocal and instrumental sonority. The piece "Cello Counterpoint" sounds fascinating.

Meanwhile, John Adams' new opera Doctor Atomic will premiere next weekend in San Francisco, and the New York Times reports on the work's genesis in an article entitled "The Opera That Chooses the Nuclear Option." Having played some of Adams' earlier compositions, I can relate to his comment that the orchestration "is like a great big ukulele...[t]he musical interest is in the chord changes, the breathless energy, the pulse." Being part of that breathless ukulele can be both tedious and intoxicating, but Adams can also write in a richer contrapuntal style, and in the new work he promises a "serpentine churning inner activity," expressing the conflicted emotions of his scientist protagonists.

It's exciting to see two great composers evolving within their own idiosyncratic styles, and turning their voices to timely subjects with philosophically timeless dimensions. From what I've been able to gather from the news stories, both composers still have a great deal left to say - I look forward to hearing it!

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