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Customer Review

on September 11, 2003
"Early Works" collects four of composer Steve Reich's earliest examples of minimalist music for both tapeloops and actual musical instruments. Listening to these early pieces is quite fascinating and offers a glimpse of what was to come in the music world more than 35 years later.
The first piece on the disc, "Come Out" was created in 1966 as part of a benefit for six youngsters who were arrested in the infamous Harlem riots. Reich's source material for this piece consists of a spoken phrase by a young man named Daniel Hamm. Reich takes two identical tapeloops Hamm's phrase ("Come out to show them") and allows them to gradually go out of synch with each other. As they do, the charachteristics of the human speech become more revealing as every detail of the 'come out' phrase becomes exposed. As the piece gradually moves forward, Reich doubles the loops to four and allows them to go out of synch thus adding further depth to the repeated phrase. Finally, the four loops double to eight and the phrase becomes indecipherable but highly rhythmic like a percussionist using brushes on a snare drum. 37 years later, "Come Out" can very well be considered as the first 'rap' or 'hip-hop' piece. It's repeated rhythmic tapeloops are an early example of what is now known as 'sampling'.
The second piece is "Piano Phase" composed in 1967. The principle behind this piece is having two pianists starting a repeated phrase together in unison but gradually having one pianist get a beat ahead (then two and three beats etc.) of the other pianist thus creating entirely new melodic and harmonic rhythmic patterns. This is an excellent 20-minute study of what can be done with two pianos playing the exact same thing but at different intervals.
The third piece is the short but effective "Clapping Music" composed in 1972. This piece was written for two pairs of hands clapping out a simple elementary rudiment. Like "Piano Phase", one performer plays the same thing throughout while the other jumps ahead a number of beats. On a personal note, this is an excellent piece to teach your friends. It's fun and simple to learn.
The final piece is "It's Gonna Rain" which is the earliest piece in this collection, created in 1965. This is another tapeloop piece in the style of "Come Out". The source material was recorded by Reich in a park in San Francisco and the voice belongs to a street preacher by the name of Brother Walter. "It's Gonna Rain" is presented in two parts. The first part consists of Walter's phrase 'it's gonna rain' in a repeated loop. At first there are numerous rhythmic edits in the loops showcasing the different parts of diction and pitch in the one phrase. Then an identical loop of the same phrase cuts in and gradually goes out of synch with the other. When the two loops are as far out of synch as possible, this creates a sort-of teetertotter-like effect. The loops then gradually fall back in synch which concludes the first part of this piece.
Part two's structure is almost the same as the first part but in this case, a longer compilcated loop consisting of several different phrases from Brother Walter is used. Like "Come Out", this part begins with two identical tapeloops played together in unison but then gradually go out of synch. The two loops double to four and gradually go out of synch followed by the doubling to eight loops. As the eight loops go out of synch, the sound of the piece becomes extremely chaotic - a cacophony of voices that sound as if they are in a large echo chamber. This brings "It's Gonna Rain" to a chilling close.
Without a doubt, Steve Reich is a composer that was and still is ahead of his time. His early tape experiments included on this disc have paved the way for today's DJs and electronic musicians. This music does require some patience, study and understanding. Not everyone will grasp this music upon its first listen. However, there's is no argument that this music is timeless and demonstrates the young Steve Reich coming into full bloom as a dynamic and innovative composer.
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