Steve Reich: Electric Counterpoint

This is a piece in three movements: Fast – Slow – Fast, and like much of Reich’s music is minimalist in style.

In the first movement, all the instruments start by playing the same rhythm (a repeated quaver line), and the instruments come in and out at different times, varying the harmony.  Gradually one of the guitars starts playing a new line which is then used as the basis for imitation by the other instruments, creating a very hypnotic effect.  Over the top of this we start to get repeated quavers coming in again, building up the texture before it fades out into the second movement.

This movement has a ‘feel good’, chilled out kind of flavour to it at the beginning, plenty of major thirds and high pitched instruments.  The repeated quaver line comes in over the top again, played on bass guitars which adds a more ominous feeling into the mix.

I think the third movement is genius – you can listen to it and follow along to the score here.  It has a syncopated, catchy rhythm which the live guitar picks up and plays out of phase (two quavers later).  The imitation is started cleverly with just a fragment of the phrase before being played in full.  Other guitars then also start the out-of-phase playing, developing into a very full and satisfying texture.  I really liked this movement.

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