WORKS: The Cave
PERFORMER: Cheryl Bensman Rowe, Marion Beckenstein, James Bassi, Hugo Munday; The Steve Reich Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79327-2 DDD
‘Original’ is an over-used word, but in the case of Steve Reich’s The Cave, its use is entirely justified. Reich describes The Cave as a ‘documentary/music/video/theatre’ work. First performed in 1993, it’s a collaboration with the video artist Beryl Korot, and is Reich’s most ambitious piece. ‘The Cave’ in question is the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where Abraham is thought to be buried and which is sacred to Jews and Muslims alike. By interviewing Jews, Muslims and Americans and posing the same questions (Who are Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael?) Reich powerfully exposes the origins of the Middle East conflict and, in the case of the Americans, the flippant understanding of it. The Cave continues stylistically where Different Trains left off. The speech rhythms and pitches of the interviewees are underlined and mimicked instrumentally, while five screens relay documentary footage to the audience at the same time. In performance, the visual complexity of the piece was almost overwhelming. Stripped bare of its visuals, the aural impact of The Cave is still immense. Details in the score stand out chillingly: as Khalid Suleiman, a journalist from Hebron, says, ‘There’s a little discrepancy between the Old Testament account of that and the Koranic account’.
It is a summation of Reich’s work. Annette Morreau