Orange Mountain Music

“The audio tapes in the Kitchen’s archive,” writes Stephen Vitiello in his liner notes, “were all found in a number of dust-covered boxes three years ago, nearly lost to memory”. The historical value of these performances may indeed be important, but I didn’t find much to make me quiver with emotion in these live segments by Steve Reich’s Musicians. If continuous annoying external street noise doesn’t spoil the music (I tried to enjoy Shem Guibbory’s fabulous reading of Violin Phase – the record’s high spot – by attempting to imagine the traffic outside as an Organum-like active environmental complement to the composition, but failed), audience noise does, a case in point being the transition to the second movement of Six Pianos, one of my favourite moments in all minimalism, ruined by one of many classic coughs. Putting antisocial prejudices to one side, I enjoyed the rendition of Pendulum Music, where microphones swinging above loudspeakers generate clouds of feedback (predating future manipulations of the same matter by the likes of David Lee Myers and Asmus Tietchens), but Music for Pieces of Wood remains, like Clapping Music, more of an experiment than a real step forward, and hasn’t aged well, unlike many of Reich’s older pieces, which still maintain their fascinating aura, overquoted though they may be. The final excerpt from the fourth part of Drumming is well executed, yet the sound quality on this piece and on the disc as a whole is comparable to a well refined bootleg, which Live 1977 definitely is. For completists only. Nostalgia be damned.

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