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Reich: Drumming

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Album Review

Steve Reich Drumming is the second release on Cantaloupe by Brooklyn-based percussion ensemble So Percussion. Reich's minimalist master work doesn't leave a lot of room for interpretation or error — you either play it well or you don't, and if one person in the group is a little off it upsets the whole apple cart. So Percussion plays the work exactly as it goes, and are helped in this performance by Steve Reich veterans Rebecca Armstrong and Jay Clayton in providing the vocal parts. Erin Lesser plays the scant, but important, piccolo part. This is "Drumming" on a diet, as there are only four players used in the lineup of So Percussion that made this recording. Presumably, at least some of it is overdubbed, as the score calls for nine percussionists. It is also played at a significantly faster clip than in the famous 1974 Deutsche Grammophon first recording of the work, which topped out at 85 minutes, but it is not as fast as Reich's 1987 recording for Nonesuch, barely over an hour-long. So Percussion's overall tempo is chosen well, and brings the work in between the two poles of the composer's timings at 70 minutes. This performance follows Reich's score without being so much as a hair off, yet compared to Reich's own, now rather quaint 1974 rendering, the So Percussion recording is somewhat lacking in terms of a distinctive character — it is like the smooth surface of a pond with exactly symmetrical ripples flowing towards the land. Yet "Drumming," played up to speed with no mistakes doesn't allow for a lot in the way of variation — properly played, it is sort of like a machine. Nonetheless, one will not find a better representation of "Drumming" on disc; it is almost like Pierre Boulez' Deutsche Grammophon recording of Le Sacre du Printemps in that, were one to look at a particular spot in the score, together with So Percussion's recording, what one hears is exactly what one sees. Cantaloupe's engineering, too, is excellent.


Formed: 1999 in New Haven, CT

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The innovative, groundbreaking Brooklyn-based quartet So Percussion have redefined the meaning of the term "percussion ensemble." Though established in 1999 to play contemporary classical works, they have worked with a wide range of composers, musicians, and recording artists in other genres as well. In addition to drums and traditional percussion instruments, So Percussion have made their own instruments and play everything from tea cups and walnut planks to flower pots and amplified cactus. The...
Full Bio

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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Classical, Music
  • Released: Mar 08, 2005

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