Reich: The Four Sections, Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices & Organ

A 1990 release comprising two of Reich’s works.

The first work, The Four Sections, was commissioned for the San Francisco Symphony in honour of its 75th Anniversary August 1987 and given its premier that year on 7 October conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. The title of the work refers to the four sections of the orchestra and the four harmonic sections dividing each movement – Strings, Percussion, Winds and Brass and the full Orchestra. The original idea for The Four Sections was suggested by Tilson Thomas in terms of a Concerto for Orchestra. Reich’s interpretation was to use the orchestra as a means to explore further the ideas presented in works like Six Marimbas and Violin Phase, where identical instruments are interlocked. This performance is by the London Symphony Orchestra with Tillson Thomas conducting.



The second piece is a 1973 composition. It is scored for glockenspiels, marimbas, metallophone (vibraphone without resonators), women’s voices, and organ, and runs about 17 minutes. It is performed by Reich and his ensemble. The piece features two interrelated musical processes: the building up of a duplicate of a preexisting pattern played by the marimbas and the glockenspiels, and the augmenting (lengthening of the duration of notes) of repeated chord cadences of the women’s voices and organ. The women’s voices sing a simple vowel sound, “ee”, doubling upper notes of chords played by the organ. The decision to double organ and women’s voices was made by Reich after several months of experimentation. First he tried doubling four wind instruments with two men’s and two women’s voices. One attempt along this line was made with two bass clarinets and two clarinets; another involved bass trombone, trombone, flugelhorn, and trumpet. He found that the performers, both the wind players and the vocalists, had difficulty keeping in tune for long chords. Reich substituted organ for the wind instruments, and then eliminated the men’s voices to avoid a sound that was “too heavy and slow moving.”

Reich has been a huge influence in my own music and indeed the as yet unreleased track “Propshaft” by Kill Pretty was hugely influenced by Reich and much of the ambient background to that track was derived from the album Dreaming by Passage of Time (one of my side projects).