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Reich: Four Organs - Phase Patterns

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Album Review

Steve Reich has described his 1971 piece Four Organs as an attempt to reproduce the phasing effect of his mid-'60s tape pieces (such as Come Out and It's Gonna Rain) with real musicians in a concert setting. Four organists (including on this 1974 recording, both Reich himself and his friend Philip Glass) play single notes repeatedly, aided by the superhuman efforts of a maracas player who's providing an unaccented beat at a steady tempo. As beats are slowly added to and dropped from bars as the piece develops, chords that had formed and lasted for single beats in early measures become longer and longer, so that by the end of the piece, a single chord, formed by the four organists each playing a different note, is held for over 200 beats. As an added textural fillip, human nature requires that, despite their best efforts, the organists will not be hitting every note at exactly the same time, thus producing the interesting textures and overtones that start to become the focus of the piece after the first couple of minutes. Four Organs is minimalism at its purest. Phase Patterns is basically the same idea without the steadying influence of the maracas, meaning that the phasing effects occur quicker and are more pronounced. It's arguably a slightly less interesting work, but it's still one of Reich's finest early pieces.


Born: 03 October 1936 in New York, NY

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A highly influential avant-garde composer and one of the key founders of the minimalist school of music, Reich has embraced a wide variety of musical styles and interests, forging from them a unique synthesis. Reich took piano lessons as a youngster, but his first big musical revelations came at 14, when he encountered the music of Bach and Stravinsky. He also had his first exposure to bebop, and immediately started learning drums and playing in a jazz band with friends. He played on weekends while...
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