REICH WTC 9/11. Mallet Quartet. Dance Patterns
It’s not surprising that composers feel drawn to commemorate shattering events taking place in their midst – it goes back to Thomas Tomkins’s A Sad Pavan for these Distracted Times on the death of Charles I. Before his World Trade Center 10th anniversary commemoration, Reich wrote Different Trains (1988), in which he connected his own coast-to-coast journeys between divorced parents in his childhood and the trains taking Jews to Hitler’s concentration camps.
This time the use of manipulated speech in WTC 9/11 goes back to Reich’s beginnings with pieces based on tape loops in It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out in the mid-1960s. The scraps of speech in the new piece come from air traffic controllers and bystanders near the World Trade Center on that fateful day. There are three string quartets, recorded by the Kronos and superimposed, and pre-recorded singing voices. The whole piece is a chilling recollection. There is nothing emollient about the quartet sound and quite rightly not a whiff of sentimentality.
Mallet Quartet (2009), in the version for two marimbas and two vibraphones, takes us back to the celebratory repetitions of vintage Reich but on an unusually short time-scale. Dance Patterns (2002) was written for a film by Thierry de May and is even more relaxed, with some jazzy syncopations. Altogether a fascinating look at recent Reich, attractively packaged – it’s all over inside 40 minutes but there is also a DVD of Mallet Quartet included.