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Saturday night was my only dive into New York’s Octoberfest Adult Swim of Steve Reich — and that would be the LA Master Chorale’s performance at Tully, where Better Half and The Wild Koba and I went to bathe in the gloriousness that is Tehillim. It’s never ever enough, though. Like a junkie’s fix, I find myself wondering when I might hear it live again. That piece reduces me to a head-shaking teary mess, where I’m simultaneously disbelieving that any music could be so joyfully beautiful, and yet groovy at the same time. It was a terrific performance, and a good reminder of how searingly difficult the thing actually is. You don’t necessarily ever get that sense from the recording, where you can’t actually see the performers sweating out those cross-rhythms and high-C’s. The next time someone complains about how difficult my rhythmic counterpoint is, I might have to strap them down and blast this sucker in their general direction.

The giddy concert appetizer was every geeky composer’s favorite parlor game, Clapping Music, with Reich himself on “Clap One”, but the headliner of course was the NY premiere of You Are (Variations), written for the LAMC in 2004. At the risk of sounding like a groupie (I am), this new piece is as marvelous and awe-inspiring as its terrific recording, which I believe I’ve gushed about before. I really think it might be the best thing SR has written in at least the last 10 years. Those 4 marimba/vibes stacks paired with the 4 grand pianos are mesmerizing—I couldn’t take my eyes off them—they form a 6-cylinder monster truck engine for his grooves. I’ll probably be writing a solo marimba/vibes stack piece this winter—I must get my hands on this score…

This concert made me think about one-composer concerts in general, as a general side-effect to the Reich-drugged loopiness I was experiencing. It was truly wonderful—but you know, that’s a lot of Reich. And I only went to one out of the gazillion concerts. I started wondering how these pieces would play were they surrounded by other, likely different works. I would think they’d shine even brighter, and we’d leave the hall not with tired ears, but wanting much more.

One-composer concerts are tricky things. They always mean well, of course, and are more often than not meant to honor the composer in some well-thought out way, but I’m not sure they ultimately service the composer so well. (Musically that is. Promotionally and publicity-wise, they can’t be beat.) Friends of mine who have heard or conducted concerts of all their own music have relayed how stomach-churning the event actually was. Look! Here’s a chance to hear all of your music, back to back, so you can see how you rip yourself off and re-use the same orchestrational tricks, and generally prove to the world what a hack you are! Ooh, sign me up. This has been on my mind of late as there’s a Newman-o-thon coming up in Stephenville TX at Tarleton State. On one hand I’m giggling with excitement about it, and on the other, I’m kind of wondering what Maestro Jonathan Hooper (TSU Wind Ensemble’s fearless leader) is thinking, and why he hates me so much.

But then I hear the Clapping Music motive dancing in my head, and I go to my Reich Happy Place once more. Look out for countless articles, reviews, and general postgame media hooplah, all sizing these concerts up even more pretentiously than I just have, now that Reich @ 70 is winding down.

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