REICH Radio Rewrite
Over the years a significant number of rock and pop musicians have acknowledged their debt to Steve Reich, as seen in recordings that range from mere stylistic appropriation (Kraftwerk or King Crimson) to more direct homage in DJ remixes of specific compositions. Radio Rewrite sees Reich finally returning the compliment, which is unusual given his general uninterest in musical quotation. Composed in 2013 for an 11 piece ensemble consisting of winds, strings and Reich’s trademark pairing of two pianos and two mallet instruments, Radio Rewrite threads two songs by British rock band Radiohead into its taut five-movement format.
The first, third and fifth movements draw on the opening chord sequence of Radiohead’s ‘Jigsaw falling into place’, while the second and fourth movements make use of harmonic patterns found in the more ambient, electronically generated sound world of ‘Everything in its right place’. While these references are never made explicit (Reich states rather cryptically that ‘sometimes you hear them and sometimes you don’t’), Radio Rewrite preserves much of the dark, edgy expression of the original tracks.
The work that brought Reich’s music to pop audiences, Electric Counterpoint, is also included here – performed in an act of reciprocal appreciation by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. As might be expected from a musician of rock proclivities, Greenwood’s rendition is crisper and more direct than Pat Metheny’s original recording. Metheny’s smooth, jazz-inflected articulation is replaced with a more detached and slightly grittier sound, with ostensibly less studio manipulation. The overall impression is of a more ‘live’ sound, if that’s not too much of a contradiction for a piece largely created out of pre-recorded guitar parts.
The final work on this disc, Piano Counterpoint, is also a ‘rewrite’ of sorts. An arrangement by Vincent Corver of Reich’s much earlier Six Pianos, Piano Counterpoint conflates two of its six piano lines into one virtuoso part (played with crystal-clear precision by Vicky Chow), while the rest are pre-recorded in a similar manner to Reich’s other counterpoint pieces. If nothing else, this highly concentrated, pocket-size version of Six Pianos demonstrates the relative ease with which a previously ‘pure’ minimalist composition can turn into something far more post-minimally accessible. While it works on a certain level, one suspects that the younger Reich would not have approved.