TravisH keeping me up on music news that matters. Great to see another personal hero of mine getting the attention he so deserves. I've received so much energy from the music of Steve Reich over the years. It all begain, as I've mentioned before here, in Sept of 1981 during my first day of Music Composition class with David Liptak at U of Illinois where "O Superman" and "Octet" were presented.
Published: January 28, 2005
Steve Reich was sitting in Starbucks: a logical enough place to meet a man who has been described as the most caffeinated individual in New York. Around him, ambient noise recreated the atmosphere of his 1994 piece "City Life," which incorporated recordings of pile-drivers, snatches of speech and other downtown New York noises. He was talking about his latest piece, "You Are (Variations)," which had its premiere in October in Los Angeles.
"There are four movements, four texts," he said. "The first text is from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the most magnetic and mystical of Hasidics. One of his sayings was, 'You are wherever your thoughts are.' The second movement is in Hebrew, from the Psalms: 'I place the Eternal before me.' It's a suggestion for concentrating your thought. And whereas in the first movement, harmonically it goes all over the map, the way our minds do, the second movement basically works with four chords, and that's it. The third movement is Wittgenstein, 'Explanations come to an end somewhere.' "
This idea led him to a brief exegesis on the course of scientific thought: "First there were just atoms, then there were protons and neutrons, then there were quarks, and now we're talking about string theory. It seems like every 20, 30, 40, 50 years a trapdoor opens and another level of reality opens up."
"And the last movement goes back into Hebrew," he concluded. "It's sort of a proverb: 'Say little and do much.' "
This may not be the most apposite proverb for Mr. Reich - at least not the "say little" part. His ideas emerge in a swift current of words, formed by the crisscrossings of different streams of thought - not unlike his music, in which ideas are introduced, examined, juxtaposed, pursued, rediscovered.
Not that those ideas always move in the directions people expect. His explication of his new piece was his way of answering how he felt about the approach of his 70th birthday, in October 2006.
It's a time when a person might be expected to wax valedictory. Mr. Reich is being honored with a couple of miniretrospectives this season: a three-concert series at the Metropolitan Museum (the second is tomorrow; the last, on April 2), and a Composer Portrait at the Miller Theater (March 25), which will include a performance of one of his best-known works, "Drumming," by So Percussion. (A recording of the piece by the group will be released on March 11.)
And all of this is just a warmup for the 70th-birthday festivities. "New York Counterpoint: New York Celebrates Steve Reich" will involve some of the city's major presenting organizations: the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, each relying on its particular strengths. Dance performances by Anne Theresa De Keersmaeker and Akram Khan will open the Next Wave festival at the academy. `Carnegie will offer a workshop with Mr. Reich and his ensemble coaching young musicians, and present the Kronos Quartet and other instrumentalists at Zankel Hall. Lincoln Center will focus on the vocal music, including "You Are (Variations)" in its first New York performance.
This is all very nice for Mr. Reich, and he certainly isn't one to dismiss his old work. But it's the new works that really have his attention: especially, "You Are (Variations)."
"It's a piece that I'm extremely happy with," he said, breaking into a chuckle of delight.
In a way, explaining his newest piece is the best answer to a question about retrospectives. All of Mr. Reich's work, directly or indirectly, grows out of the work that has come before. His present, you could say, is his past.
"I think Steve is the most focused composer on the planet," said David Lang, himself a composer and a co-founder of Bang on a Can. (Mr. Reich will be the composer in residence at Bang on a Can's summer music institute in North Adams, Mass., affectionately nicknamed Banglewood, in July.)
"The things he is doing now are the logical continuations of the ideas he started with 40 years ago, reimagined and sometimes startlingly recombined," Mr. Lang added. "There are abstract musical things he has always wanted to do, and he keeps finding new ways to do them."
* * *
Thinking again on David Whyte and the power that words and our definitions of them have in framing the boundaries we set for ourselves when deciding what is 'real' and what is possible.
Interesting conversations this morning with VladS regarding roles required in a successful product development team. Interesting to notice the similarties of the Legistative, Judicial, and Executive branches compared to the Development, Test, and Program Management roles in many software companies. Also interesting to notice the functions of an executive mgmt team and associated complementary 'services' each provides in a balanced team:
CEO (why - determines business need and provides guiding motivation for doing what is done)
CFO (when - manages resources against the calendar to make sure required 'energy' is available)
CTO (how - determines how to do what is required to meet business needs)
COO (what - determines what must be done to meet the business objectives)
HR (who - determines who is able and willing to do the necessary work to meet business objectives)
Interesting to consider that Money is simply a form of social energy. With food, I can provide the 'fuel' my body needs to get out of bed and do stuff. With money, I can provide a team of people with 'fuel' they need to work together to transform resources into something useful for other groups of people. Pretty basic, even obvious, ideas -- but interesting to notice in myself how thinking of money as energy dramatically changes the way I 'invest' and manage it. Also, perhaps even more interesting to examine those who are 'not interested in money' and contrast their motivations and behaviors with those who seem naturally 'interested, even obsessed, w/ money.'
One step further, in my first college physics class, I experienced (not just 'learned') the idea that power is simply energy over time. Interesting to translate this into human or social terms where the idea of 'power' is not generally understood or expressed in such a literally physical metaphor.
How much energy you spend over time is a measure of your power.
* * *