Signal Plays Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians
Signal, New York's new-music supergroup, has been created to perform works by contemporary composers for large ensemble (13-30 musicians), combining the flexibility and intimacy of chamber music with the power and sonic variety of a compact orchestra. Led by Brad Lubman, one of the foremost conductors of new music, Signal includes all of So Percussion, plus members of Alarm Will Sound, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Gutbucket, and other leading New York ensembles. Signal made its first appearances earlier this year at the Bang on a Can Marathon in NYC, earning praise from The New York Times for its "auspicious debut, a powerful account of Steve Reich's Daniel Variations," and at the Ojai Music Festival in California, where it was lauded for "deeply committed performances" (MusicalAmerica.com) of "gripping vehemence" (LA Times).
"Music for 18 Musicians," composed in 1976, is one of the undisputed masterpieces of American minimalism, an entrancing 60-minute kaleidoscope of instrumental color and shifting rhythmic patterns that unfold over a steady pulse. The sound world of "Music for 18 Musicians" has influenced generations of composers not only in the concert music world but in pop, electronica, and hip-hop as well. The effect created by "Music for 18" is often described as magical, as timbres of winds, strings, pianos, and percussion meld in ever-changing combinations, propelled by an irresistible pulsation.
"You Are (Variations)" comes to LPR in its first performance by a New York-based group, and will be heard for the first time locally with solo voices and ensemble (rather than chorus and ensemble, as performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Lincoln Center in 2006). The 25-minute piece sets four aphoristic truisms from the Torah, the Talmud, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and 18th-century mystic Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, whose saying, "You are wherever your thoughts are" gives the piece its title. With its interlocking rhythmic patterns and multi-hued sonic palette, "You Are" (Variations) is instantly recognizable as the work of the creator of "Music for 18 Musicians." But it also provides a fascinating contrast to the earlier piece, as Reich treats his materials with a newfound sense of harmonic freedom. Reviewing "You Are (Variations)," the LA Weekly wrote, "Like a jewel examined in changing light, the text rises and falls through the instrumental texture. The marvel of the work is the newness of its expression, the fresh sounds and messages Reich has found within materials that are already known aspects of his musical language."
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