Erik Hall - Music for 18 Musicians Music Album Reviews

Eighteen musicians? In this economy? The Michigan post-minimalist recasts Steve Reich’s landmark composition as a solo project with a sleek, dark-hued electronic palette.

When Erik Hall decided to record Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians by himself, he didn’t know he would be releasing it into a world where a traditional rehearsal of it, let alone a performance, would be illegal. (Technically, it should be called Music for at Least 18 Musicians.) And if it’s tempting to cast Hall as a prophet of social distancing, it’s even more tempting to cast him in terms of hubris: Here’s a young post-minimalist from Michigan who not only thinks he’s equal to the most influential American composer’s most iconic piece, but dares to recast it in a sleek, dark-hued electronic palette.
But unless you regard 18 Musicians as a sacred text—and maybe you do—there’s nothing that audacious about someone recording it layer by layer with electronic instruments. If Hall had strapped mallets all over his body and tried to play it in the usual way, that would have been hubris. Still, there were more ways for this to go wrong than right. The only prior solo recording of any note, by Rough Fields in 2014, fell prey to some of them, with a misconceived palette that emphasized blurting repetition. Hall’s version feels shiny, new, and self-contained, but its continuity with Reich is clear—both musically, in its close attention to the structure and spirit of the score, and culturally, in its repayment of electronic music’s debt to the minimalist composer.
Music for 18 Musicians premiered in 1976, a big year for a small genre, which also gave us Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach. The piece was a turning point for Reich, who flooded his severe, unpopular minimalism with 18 musicians (some of them playing two parts at once) and toothsome harmonic motion—more of it in the first five minutes than in the entirety of any one of his prior works, he said. You didn’t need to appreciate the mysteries of tape loops or unaccompanied clapping to get it. The piece solidified minimalism in the public consciousness and even pushed it to the edge of pop: Robert Christgau’s glowing review of the 1978 recording was reprinted in his guide to 1970s rock albums, an odd but telling context for a work without a single guitar, bass, drum, lead vocal, riff, verse, chorus, or lyric.

What it did have was melody and motion, and listening to it makes you feel immortal. At the outset, 11 chords are played through two breath cycles each. Then, each becomes a stage for a study in interlocking pulses that kaleidoscopically glimmer and whirl. The changes are marked by a rare non-repeating metallophone phrase (watch the tall man with glasses waiting so patiently in the terrific Eighth Blackbird performance). The metrical patterns don’t seem to respire, they do respire, measured by the players’ breath, the bass clarinet pumping away like a great lung.

It takes a certain kind of person to perform the repetitious underlying pulses on pieces like 18 Musicians and Terry Riley’s In C without going slack or mad. Reich assigned the task to pianos and mallet instruments, roles that Hall, a pianist and percussionist, was well-prepared to merge. Discarding the mallet instruments that make 18 Musicians hover, Hall instead makes it zoom. He rivets the core pulse to a muted piano, translates violin to electric guitar, and constructs the bass clarinet on a Moog synthesizer, sometimes swapping these voices around, as Reich does. It amounts to a series of shrewd tradeoffs: prismatic color for shapely contours, organic breath for mechanical power.

Yet the signature details and passages of the piece—which moves similar material through many moods, from sprightly to raucous to mystical—are all in place. Hall captures not just the layered clockwork motion, but also the specific loopy timbre of a clarinet here, the sudden appearance of a maraca there, and the character of a vocal phrase in a Moog sweep. Though his version clocks in just under the appointed 55 minutes, it feels fast, borne along by scudding bass lines, and its reference points are as modern as they are arch-minimalist. The opening piano pulse comes on with the scrambling urgency of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends,” and Colin Stetson fans will appreciate the percolating urgency Hall wrenches from the score.

Removing the human breath that fundamentally governs Music for 18 Musicians required that Hall replace it with some other animating force. He found it by approaching the piece not as what it had been—the capstone and turning point of a musical era—but as what it had become: an idea that a broad spectrum of electronic musicians absorbed deeply into their hypnotic arpeggiations and busily interacting musical cells. His take is legible in history but assertive of the moment, propelled by its own vigor as much as anything else, and it makes a minimalist standard freshly thrilling to revisit.

👉👇You May Also Like👇👌


View the original article here
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Erik Hall - Music for 18 Musicians Music Album Reviews Erik Hall - Music for 18 Musicians Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, May 18, 2020 Rating:

0 comments:

Post a Comment