The Prickle (@ThePrickle) November 09, 2016
It was without irony that Cambridge Corn Exchange was filled with roaring applause in response to the spectacle of Colin Currie and Steve Reich having spent the last five minutes clapping. Dressed in black and wearing a peaked cap, Reich cut an unassuming figure as his hands beat a simple 12/8 pattern initially in unison with Currie, before shifting incrementally apart in slowly evolving offset of interlocking rhythms. Thereafter he left the centre stage to sit humbly amongst the audience, who marveled at the creations that unfolded for them.
As a pioneer of minimal music in the 1960s, Reich’s contribution to modern music cannot be underestimated. My adolescent ears first learned of him via New York Counterpoint in which twelve clarinets soar and throb to evoke the beating vibrancy of Manhattan. In celebration of the composer’s 80th birthday, the Colin Currie Group were tasked with performing a programme characterised by hynoptic repetitions of musical ideas, that pulsed and phased against each other in gradual transformation. The result was performed with tranquil efficiency. The industrial appearance of anonymous figures striking percussion in metronomic unison belied the creativity of the compositions.
Five minutes of Clapping Music was followed by ten minutes of Music for Pieces of Wood and then sixteen minutes of Mallet Quartet. As the ensemble grew incrementally from one piece to the next, the performance swelled to its conclusion with Music for 18 Musicians. The audience were capitvated for an hour by four grand pianos, marimbas, xylophones, voices, strings and clarinets building waves that ebbed, flowed, swirled and crashed. Audible gasps at a united finish prompted another five minute clapping performance, this time from the audience, with a standing ovation to match.