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02 November 2007


Chris Becker

The jazz musicians I'm close to greatly appreciate Reich's music and its compositional (is that word?) innovations, but their own Reichian influenced work includes elements you will never hear in a Reich piece - ie. improvisation with melody, rhythm and form. Reich's music is not constructed to allow for individual creative improvisation. And I have heard second hand (I do not know this for a fact) that he is pretty hostile to any sort of improvising happening within his pieces.

But let me know if there is some Reich rep that runs counter to what I'm saying.

Take care. CB


Depends what you mean by "improvisation." Most of his music contains sections of indeterminate length -- in Piano Phase, for example, the exact number of repeats (he gives a range), as well as the precise contour of the phasing sections, is up to the performers, and can and will vary from performance to performance.

But clearly, it is not necessary for music to include improvisation for it to reach or influence jazz musicians. Babbitt's music contains zero improvisation but his post-Schoenberg serial techniques have been very influential in some circles of the jazz "avant-garde."

Chris Becker

"But clearly, it is not necessary for music to include improvisation for it to reach or influence jazz musicians."

Right. I hope I am not giving an impression that I believe the lack of resonance you've noted among your peers regarding music is simply because they can't blow over changes!

I just wanted to say that some of my peers have utilized some of Reich's ideas in their own work and pushed the music into territory that perhaps Reich himself is not completely receptive to or comfortable with as a composer. My friend's Permagrin (Dan Sumner - guitar and Louis Romanos -drums) composed a piece called

as the duo Permagrin that shows one approach...

Chris Becker

Nuts. The link I created didn't work. This should if you past it in as a URL. Sorry!


Chris Becker

Okay - feel free to delete that. If you're really curious - head over to http://www.permagrin.us/Music.htm and scroll down to the streaming track "Classical." It's a beautiful piece.

Sorry to clog up the blog...:(

Michael Wittmann

I hate to be a doofus, but WHICH Radiohead tracks are you talking about? There's obviously the 5/4 beat of the opener, but that can't be Reichian (perhaps Desmondian? ha.). There's "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" in which the 8 measures (32 beats) of drum are matched with 32 mostly triplet arpeggio guitar notes that play in a pattern of 3 (for 10 arpeggios) and 2 (for the last one), aligning to the 32 beats of the drums. But is that Reichian?

So, what are the two songs? Just wondering...


I am a HUGE fan of using "Clapping Music" for pedagogical purposes! I've used it with elementary school students about 12 years ago and I'm using it now with some 11th-graders at Brooklyn International High School, where I've combined it with South Indian solkattu. One of the things I like most about using it is that it's comprehensible from the get-go, but still challenging to execute. You don't have to know anything about reading music, you can say "this symbol means clap; this symbol means don't clap. they take the same amount of time." I'm getting more resistance to learning how to practice than to the piece itself.


Hi Michael,

"Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" is one of them -- the multiple asynchronous arpeggio loops are all over Reich's music. (The association is most vivid when the drums cut out at 3:03.).

And the drum beat in "Videotape" is gradually stretched out using almost exactly the same process as Four Organs.

Chris Becker

"...virtues of Reich's music -- propulsion, clarity, patience, audible development, complexity via the manipulation of simple materials, the gradual construction of an effective large-scale musical narrative..."

You could be describing a LOT of composers here with this list of virtues...I think the blow back you've noted among your peers with regards to Reich's music might have to do with the fact (or opinion) that the end result of Reich's processes is a music that falls way short of any kind of transcendental experience one experiences with indigenous, ritualistic music (much of which influenced Reich and Glass). Strangely to me, Reich has removed a lot of the qualities of African music from his music that I hold dear (like improvisation). The end result for me doesn't take me anywhere as a listener and artist. So much of his rep to my ears is just dull.

Maybe some other people in the jazz community who don't dig Reich could articulate their issues with this music here on your blog? I feel like my issues with Reich are valid and they don't equal a disrespect for the man (or the people who find his work inspiring). But I'd like to hear for instance exactly what some of your peers who don't get off on Reich's music have to say about it. Without being snarky, etc. but instead in a more clinical manner.

Good luck with your upcoming tour by the way.

David Crowell

I'd like to hear this new recording, but I think that nothing compares to hearing the piece live. A lot of textures and timbres arise that you can't fully appreciate on a recording. I know a fair amount of people who aren't into Reich, but check his stuff out in concert and maybe you'll have a change of heart.

Also, I'm really into a lot of Afro-pop, which usually doesn't require a lot of improvising. Yet, it's so satisfying because of how things lock together and stay there. There's something to be said for fully exploring one idea - sometimes improvisers (including myself!) lose sight of that.

Michael Wittmann


thanks for the response! Woo hoo. I was listening to the abnormal time signature in Faust Arp (I think...) as well, and realizing that Radiohead with Johnny Greenwood is much more interesting that Thom Yorke solo.

All this is on a side bar, namely that this whole post was interesting. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm only a listener, not a player or studier of music, and it's always nice to get a new tidbit of information.

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