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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Percussionists Celebrate Steve Reich

The exemplary UCSB Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Jon Nathan, will play a concert at 8 p.m. Thursday in Karl Geiringer Hall (Music Room 1250).

Steve Reich
Steve Reich

The evening’s programming will be devoted exclusively to the compositions of American composer Steve Reich, including Clapping Music, for two musicians clapping (both amplified) [1972], Music for Pieces of Wood, for five pair of tuned claves [1973], Six Marimbas, a transcription of “Six Pianos” [1973], for 6 marimbas [1986] and Mallet Quartet, for two marimbas and two vibraphones [2009].

It is difficult to discuss Reich as a composer within the framework of traditional, probably out-of-date, definitions of what a composer is and does. What it seems to me that Reich does — forgive me for attempting such a minimalist definition — is invent a formula of relationships and set the parameters within which the music, once put in motion, can compose itself. This is breathtakingly self-effacing, but it is entirely possible that it is precisely Reich’s austere impersonality that appeals to his fans.

It also seems to me that Reich’s music defines a new audience, that his music does not treat its listeners like music usually does, neither charming, nor thrilling, nor abusing them. It casts a spell, to be sure, but the spell contains no historical or literary references.

For this last feature, the absence of cultural context, I have trouble connecting Reich’s music to my emotional life. Yet, moment by moment, I feel a powerful fascination for Reich’s music, fascination mixed with dread,, like the covers of early Blue Öyster Cult albums.

Reich’s art, his particular genius, are perfectly showcased by a percussion ensemble, I think. The instruments articulate a skeleton of process, it all makes sense. This is the way to hear and recognize Reich’s core values.

Admission to the Percussion Ensemble concert is $15 for general and $7 for students. Tickets may be purchased at the door or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

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