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Proverb / Nagoya Marimbas / City Life

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 15, 1996
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 15, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000005J4E
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,131 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Samuel Richmond on September 16, 2001
Format: Audio CD
For the past twelve years Reich has labored in the shadow of his unassailable masterpiece, "Different Trains." Both its concision and its monumentality made that sampling exposition of Holocaust testimony the standard for the work Reich has accurately if immodestly claimed he was "born to do."

His more recent recorded compositions such as "The Cave" and the three works on this disc-- less visceral and emotional, perhaps, but no less powerful of insight-- have been less uniformly well received. In particular, "City Life" has been marginalized by some as a found-sound exercise in banality, utilizing performance techniques that sounded dated when the piece premiered in 1995.

The reason critics need to give it another listen has little to do with the awful coincidence in Reich's climactic choice of the earlier World Trade Center bombing aftermath as a sample source. It has a lot more to do with the sobering atmosphere progressively achieved throughout the first four movements-- a precarious balance of despair and indifference, equipoise and terror. Had this music reflected the events of 2001 rather than 1993, its composer needn't have changed a note.

With almost surgical understatement, Reich distills his stylistic hallmarks-- crystalline architecture, slow-burn intensity, razor-sharp asentimentality, and inexhaustable rhythmic drive-- into a musical observation of urban rage, unsparingly linking individual discontent to mass destruction.

No sides are taken here. Often skeptical of a composer's entitlement to expression for its own sake, Reich has always despised and successfully avoided musical agitprop.
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Format: Audio CD
Avid listeners of Reich will recognize how this album is an evolution from his earlier minimalist tendencies, making for an incredible listening experience. Having many Reich CDs in my collection, "Proverb" is arguably my favorite work - it takes the type of attention to space from earlier works such as "18" or the Counterpoint series and guides it in a newer and fresher direction, filled with quiet beauty, grace, and peace. "City Life" can be seen similarly as an extention from "Different Trains", using samples from the people and sounds of New York City to describe the tragedy of the World Trade Center bombing. The piece is nothing short of brilliant. "Nagoya Marimbas" takes his earlier Phase works and makes it more complex, weaving melodies and harmonies in a rhythmically challenging close canon, giving the work the type of energy for which Reich is well known for and is often imitated, but unmatched. In short, this album is an essential for Reich and "post-minimalist" fans.
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Format: Audio CD
This CD was my first venture into the works of Steve Reich, and is probably my most frequently listened to. I have to say, these are some incredibly striking and graceful pieces to listen to. Rather than relying on traditional chordal progressions and arrangements to progress the piece, this is instead a study in pattern and melody, and (during City Life) the use of everyday sound. Being a rock fan as well as classical, I find it interesting to see the latter entering into classical music as well as where I've experienced it before (in Pink Floyd, Rick Wright, and other rock artists' works).
"Proverb" is a very interesting, mellow piece with a single lyric: "How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life." This piece recalls the medieval forms such as the organum--but with rhythms and dissonances that the ancients would have never dared explore. The lyric itself seems to be a statement of the principles of minimalism...something upon which the listener is compelled to meditate during the course of this piece. "Nagoya Marimbas", while not the most striking statement is a very interesting study of patterns--the changes are subtle and occur just in time to prevent the piece from becoming monotonous. I imagine that to play this piece would require great concentration on the part of each player, to stay with their individual contribution to it.
By far, "City Life" is the most compelling piece, and the one I initially bought this CD for. The use of sampled sounds, combined with the textures of the music itself, truly evokes the image of New York City, from the frenzied rush of cars in the first movement to the brooding ambience of the harbor, and finally, the potential for disaster reflected in the last movement.
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Format: MP3 Music
This short work for two marimbas, composed in 1994 for the opening of a new hall at the Nagoya music conservatory in Japan, is for Steve Reich fans in a hurry. Reich himself has said it’s comparable to some of his most famous works of the 1960s and 1970s built out of repeating interlocking patterns that very gradually move in and out of phase with each other. The two that immediately spring to my mind are Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (especially memorable for its beautiful sound texture) and above all Music for 18 Musicians for a chamber ensemble heavy with marimbas and xylophones, not a moment too long at 55 minutes, and richly harmonic as well as characteristically rhythmical. But the changes happen much more rapidly in the four-and-a-half minute Nagoya Marimbas, and there’s more melody. The two marimbas play against each other one or more beats out of phase and create, says Reich, a series of two part unison canons. Although the two players have to be virtuosic, the musical processes at work here are unusually transparent.
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