At the Steve Reich concert on Saturday night I had that rare feeling of being at an important event. The program began with Piano Phase in which two pianists start with an eight-note figure in unison, move out of phase and then back together, and then one drops out and the other reduces the figure to four notes and then nothing. It is amazing how much Paavali Jumppanen can communicate with four notes and I suppose that’s why he’s a star. The applause lasted longer than any I have ever heard in that hall, and there were three bows. As the clapping died away, two clappers emerged from the audience performing Clapping Music, which brought the house down. This was followed immediately with Music for Pieces of Wood, and after the intermission with Music for Eighteen Musicians, which was about three times as long as my concentrated attention span but interesting nonetheless.
“The thing about these concerts is that people are coming that we’ve never seen before,” said H. Not just the usual music students, music student familiars and concert groupies but a whole underground of minimalism fans who now have the chance to hear live music. I suspect many of them are geeks who’ve discovered that minimalism is good trance music for software coding and problem solving; I remember when Glassworks replaced Dark Side of the Moon for a term as the favorite stereo-blasting album in Senior House.
The Sibelius Academy minimalism festival, clapping music, continues with conferts today and tomorrow. The piece Clapping Music was performed as an audience participation piece in London the same day, and is available as a recording on emusic among other places.
Above, Reich’s Pendulum Music for microphones, amplifiers and speakers is performed in the lobby of the Academy before the second Steve Reich concert the following Tuesday. This latter concert featured Tehillim and a marimba duo by the same two clapping guys from the first concert, who make their entrances with an affectless Blue Man Group demeanor that gets me wondering if they’re going to throw paintballs, or play music. They are grad students in the percussion department and they are incredible percussion players. And clappers.