Reich: Drumming

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COMPOSERS: Reich
LABELS: Cypres
WORKS: Drumming
PERFORMER: Ictus, Synergy Vocals/Georges-Elie Octors
CATALOGUE NO: CYP 5608
Anyone who owns Nonesuch’s ten-disc box of Reich’s collected Works 1965-1995 may well feel that further versions of the 20 or so compositions included, of which Drumming is one, are redundant. This is, of course, what happens to composer-performers who are inevitably identified with the most significant performances of their own music. However, such music can nevertheless pass into the repertoire if the circumstances are right, which is exactly what has happened to Drumming. The piece is based on a single melodic and rhythmic phrase which is played on various percussion instruments with added vocal and woodwind colorations. The resulting pattern is overlaid on itself many times, with variations in phasing and the substitution of some elements with others allowing the piece to build into a complex, interlocking network of sound.

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Unsurprisingly, the piece works well in conjunction with contemporary dance. The first section features in Jiší Kylián’s Falling Angels, performed by the Nederlands Dans Theater on an Arthaus DVD (100 084), but this particular recording is associated with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s excellent Rosas company. What’s intriguing is the way in which this performance really does improve on that recorded by Reich’s own ensemble, for reasons which could easily be applied to more conventional repertoire – better instrumental technique, better tuning, better definition and so on. There’s only a single, if wonderfully animated, booklet photograph to show us the dance element, but until there’s a DVD (please!), De Keersmaeker has some other video/DVD issues available on Éditions à Voir. Roger Thomas