steve reichs

NaNoWriMo - Music

Every November is “National Novel Writing Month”, where all writers are encouraged to write at least 1,667 words a day, so that by the end of November you’ll have a draft that’s as long as a short novel. The challenge is more to help you set up a routine and get your ideas down on paper, and even though it started out as “National”, the challenge has become International with writers participating around the world.

Last year I won [and honestly last year was pretty bad for me, so that month was me at my happiest], and so I’m trying it again this year. And like with everything else in my life, I like to bring music into the picture.

I have a mild form of ADHD, so to help me stay seated and focused on writing for an hour or more, I like to put music on in the background. Problem is, Classical music is NOT the “easy listening” stuff that it’s marketed as to the general public. Most of the music I have on my iPod is very loud or complicated or too active to be “ignored”, and doesn’t work as white noise. Even so, I’ve found a good handful of works that I like to put on in the background to help me focus, and I felt that since nano has come again, I’d share them with you guys.

Minimalism is the best subgenre for writing. In a way it follows a neo-baroque principal of constantly moving forward in inventive ways, but instead of following Western development, it takes after Eastern aesthetics, valuing the journey over the destination. That way, there is constant momentum, and it can get meditative/trance like as time goes on.

Max Richter - Sleep: Starting off the list with the biggest gun in the arsenal, Richter’s “Sleep”, in its entirety, is 8 HOURS long. Unlike most classical music that lulls people to sleep, Richert’s “Sleep” is purposefully meant to sleep to, being a constant drone in downbeat, mixing traditional instruments with electronica and sound waves. It’s peaceful and static at times, and it’s only about five main ideas that transmutate throughout, but the melodies are clear, and their distinct shapes make repetition enjoyable, and though you COULD sleep to the 8 hour version, you could play the 1 hour reduction “From Sleep” as you write, because it works as a great backdrop for creativity.

Max Richter - The Four Seasons, Recomposed: Sticking with Richter’s “new age” kind of minimalism, we are taking Vivaldi’s well trodden Four Seasons and giving them a contemporary flair, with electronic sounds, repetition, and some reshaping of the iconic melodies. So you can follow along with what’s familiar, but can find it easier to get lost in the soundscape in this version than in the Baroque chamber original.

Terry Riley - In C: Going to one of the fathers of minimalism, Riley’s In C is a malleable set of variations over dozens of snippets of melodies, each one repeated as often as the performers like. The result is colorful, something like a kaleidoscope, familiar shapes changing and distorting with each turn of the mirror, and so long as the volume isn’t loud, this constant momentum will help inspire your writing productivity

Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians: Another minimalist figurehead, Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians is considered one of his great masterpieces, a slowly evolving chord progression that focuses on texture and color over everything else. The constant pulse gives the work a steady flow, while the chord changes follow the same kind of kaleidoscopic change that I mentioned earlier. 

Steve Reich - Variations for Winds, Strings, and Keyboards: This is more of a minor work, somewhat forgettable compared to his other works that deal with the same kind of structure and phasing, but the variations are still a great study in trance like development of small musical motifs. 

John Adams - Common tones in simple time: Written as a reaction against serialism and the hyper-mathematical mindset that was all the rage in Europe and “Intellectual” music circles in the 70s, Common Tones is a slowly developing orchestral work that deals with a few different “juxtapositions”; fast and slow, with percussion instruments dolling out a constant pulse while the strings drag onward, and high registers versus low registers. The result is something spacious like a desert landscape.

Philip Glass - Metamorphosis: The short suite of piano works are renditions of the same basic idea, and the different “numbered” movements were used as incidental music for theater versions of Franz Kafka’s short story. They have a more “film” feel to them, and work great as a background emotional driving theme.

There you have it, a short list of long works that have helped me stay productive during the scariest [and most rewarding] month of the year! Hope you enjoy, keep your notes and outlines close, and keep your hot coffee closer, and write on.

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highlights from my music history review

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Steve Reich - Piano Phase

“In 1967, Steve Reich composed Piano Phase - a piece of music for two pianos. It was his first attempt at applying the phasing technique to live performance. Two pianists are playing a rapid twelve-note melodic figure over and over again in unison. As one player precisely keeps the tempo, the other speeds up very slightly until the two parts line up again, but one sixteenth note apart. The second player then resumes the previous tempo. This cycle of speeding up and then locking in continues throughout the piece; the cycle comes full circle three times, the second and third cycles using shorter versions of the initial figure.

On October 2006, Russian pianist Peter Aidu performed this composition with an absolutely unique technique. While playing on two pianos, with a left hand on one instrument and the right hand playing separately on the second piano, he was recreating the sounding of two performers!”

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Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music” combined with a loop from John Boorman’s “Point Blank”.

Goddamn I’ve gotten a lot of Summer Album recs!

So my concern that not enough people would come forward with awesome recommendations has been blown out of the water, as you’ll see from this list. I haven’t listened to a tenth of these yet — just compiling the list took me a hella long time —but I will be adding to this on the regular as more people send me contestants for Summer Album 2017. In the meantime, if any of y’all are looking for something new to try, give one of these 100 recs holy shit a try! 

[Note that the parenthetical is the person who recced it; the album and performer aren’t necessarily in order bc to be honest? I don’t know a lot of these and I’m not always sure which is which. Whatever, you’ll figure it out.]

  1. Royskopp — The Inevitable End (mrspeelisreadingthings)
  2. Seventh Tree — Goldfrapp (mrspeelisreadingthings)
  3. puberty 2 —  mitski (trashbagcouture)
  4. Muse — Black Holes and Revelations (orestes-swimming)
  5. The Dandy Warhols — The Capital Years (orestes-swimming)
  6. Tracy Chapman — Tracy Chapman (thegollux)
  7. Everything Under the Sun — Jukebox (posner)
  8. Mountain Goats — Transcendental Youth (tygloch)
  9. Mountain Goats — Beat the Champ (tygloch)
  10. Strange Trails — Lord Huron (extraneousaccessories)
  11. Storm Front — Billy Joel (extraneousaccessories)
  12. Ariana Grande’ — Dangerous Woman (no-giraffes)
  13. The King is Dead — the Decemberists (shadaras)
  14. Chupacabra — Imani Coppola (paybysea)
  15. Throwing copper — live (paybysea)
  16. Mer de Noms — A Perfect Circle (paybysea)
  17. Little Things —  Toby Lightman (paybysea)
  18. Missy Higgins — On A Clear Night (paybysea)
  19. Greatest Hits by Waylon Jennings (paybysea)
  20. Great Big Sea “Sea of No Cares” (history-gurl)
  21. Rogue Taxidermy — days and daze (deliciouscocacola)
  22. Little Joy — Little Joy (eameseames)
  23. Johnny Clegg and Savuka’s Heat, Dust and Dreams (ntj254)
  24. Churches — Every Open Eye (justanxietyasks)
  25. RIOT — Paramore (justanxietyasks)
  26. Paramore — Paramore (justanxietyasks)
  27. Humanz, from Gorillaz (roguewen) [note: this was semi-recced; reccer notes that the album mostly prompted a re-listen to…]
  28. Plastic Beach — Gorillaz (roguewen) [actual rec]
  29. IS — Hey Ocean! (yellowwallsbluesky)
  30. ZZ Ward — til the casket drops (sharasbae)
  31. Waiting for You — Gordon Lightfoot (enter-remiges)
  32. Dessa — Parts of Speech (enter-remiges)
  33. Dessa — A Badly Broken Code (enter-remiges)
  34. Late for the Sky — Jackson Browne (enter-remiges)
  35. Raising Sand — Robert Plant and Allison Krauss (bluesmoothie4u)
  36. Smith Street Band — More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me (thisisaboutnotbeinginclass)
  37. Sting— Nothing Like The Sun (kiranovember)
  38. Odd Blood — Yeasayer (magnesiumqueen)
  39. E-MO-TION B Sides — Carly Rae Jepsen (magnesiumqueen)
  40. Treats — Sleigh Bells (magnesiumqueen)
  41. Rush — Black Gold (telarna)
  42. Florence & the Machine — Ceremonials (telarna)
  43. Racine Carrée — Stromae (flightofmorning)
  44. Delerium- Nuages du Monde (zjofierose)
  45. Basia Bulat — Heart of my Own (zjofierose)
  46. Basia Bulat — Tall, Tall Shadow (zjofierose)
  47. Coralie Clement — Bye Bye Beauté (zjofierose)
  48. Ane Brun — It All Starts With One (zjofierose)
  49. First Aid Kit — Stay Gold (zjofierose)
  50. Charming Hostess — Punch (zjofierose)
  51. Balkan Beat Box — Balkan Beat Box (zjofierose)
  52. Gin Wigmore — Gravel & Wine (zjofierose)
  53. PJ Harvey — Let England Shake (xenophonique)
  54. Radiohead — Amnesiac (xenophonique)
  55. Laurie Anderson — Big Science (xenophonique)
  56. Arcade Fire — Reflector (xenophonique)
  57. Camille — Le Fil (xenophonique)
  58. Les Charbonniers de l'enfer — La traversée miraculeuse (xenophonique)
  59. Brahms/Glenn Gould — 10 intermezzi (xenophonique)
  60. Lhasa de Sela — The Living Road (xenophonique)
  61. Portishead — Third (xenophonique)
  62. Stromae — Racine Carrée (xenophonique)
  63. Basement Jaxx — Kish Kash (xenophonique)
  64. Steve Reich — Tehillim (xenophonique)
  65. Jean Leloup — La vallée des réputations (xenophonique)
  66. Modern Love — Matt Nathanson (departingthetext)
  67. Paul Simon — Graceland (jellyfishfire)
  68. Paul Simon — Rhythm of the Saints (jellyfishfire
  69. Gold Motel — Gold Motel (missbuster)
  70. Gold Motel — Summer House (missbuster)
  71. Hybrid — Elsiane (ellyfishfire
  72. Watsky’s — x Infinity (andimneverhere)
  73. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness — Zombies on Broadway (tofeelnew)
  74. Empires — Orphan (tofeelnew)
  75. Basia Bulat — Heart of My Own (things-with-teeth)
  76. Basia Bulat — Oh, My Darling (things-with-teeth)
  77. Lucius — Wildewoman (things-with-teeth)
  78. Nataly Dawn — How I Knew Her (things-with-teeth)
  79. All Eternals Deck — Mountain Goats (queerlullaby)
  80. Transcendental Youth — Mountain Goats (queerlullaby)
  81. Taking the Long Way Around — the Dixie Chicks (mythologicalmango)
  82. Float — Flogging Molly (teapotdragon)
  83. Speed of Darkness — Flogging Molly (teapotdragon)
  84. Joyful Rebellion — k-os (rob-anybody)
  85. Yes — k-os (rob-anybody)
  86. Massive Attack — Mezzanine (alwaysneverneviditelny)
  87. Emotion — Carly Rae Jepsen (disturbuniverse)
  88. Green Day — American Idiot (underorange)
  89. Lost On You — LP (jellyfishfire)
  90. Siempre Hay Salida — Pistolera (disturbuniverse)
  91. Shinedown — Sound of Madness (queenklu)
  92. Lake Street Dive — Bad Self Portraits (goblinish)
  93. Poe — Haunted and (owlsongsandgoblinlaughs)
  94. Poe — Hello (owlsongsandgoblinlaughs)
  95. Poe — Extraordinary Things [though apparently it’s not “legally” by her? IDK] (owlsongsandgoblinlaughs)
  96. Cashmere by swet shop boys (disturbuniverse)
  97. Indian Summer by Carbon Leaf (meretricula)
  98. Bleachers — Gone Now (fandompope)
  99. Harry Styles — Harry Styles (fandompope)
  100. Mountain Goats — Goths (fandompope)

At some point I’ll add some of the comments as to why people have recced these, because they’re all amazing — and please don’t be discouraged that I haven’t responded to your recs privately, it’s because I want to save all the amazing comments for when I listen to each album and with the way tumblr works, that… doesn’t happen.

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“2 By 4” - The Rock Center For Dance, mini ballet duo, 4th overall, Finals Competition, The Dance Awards Las Vegas, July 2017
★ Choreography by April Wexelman
☆ Dancers ☆ Summer Montenegro, Kiarra Waidelich
The Four Sections - IV. Full Orchestra ~ Steve Reich

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Reich - Octet, “Eight Lines”


I listened to this on the train the other day, slowly rolling into the city. After just a few minutes in, you start to lose sense of any melody and only notice the color and rhythm [as with most Reich pieces]

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Steve Reich - Different Trains (Europe - During the war)

On more time