Sometimes you don’t want to know how the sausage is made. You
want to enjoy it, and appreciate its savoury qualities, but
not have someone tell you all the details. Reading the liner-notes
for this album, I had the same thought. There may be some people
- most likely percussionists - who want to know that for Electric
Counterpoint, Kuniko Kato used eight parts with steel pans,
including one tenor pan and a pair of guitar pans. There may
also be some people who want to read a “making of” of the disc,
where the performer explains how it was recorded, produced and
mixed, and especially highlighting how many times she e-mailed
Steve Reich to get his approval for her arrangements.
Sometimes it’s best to just let the music speak for itself.
This disc contains percussion arrangements of three works by
Steve Reich, performed by percussionist Kuniko Kato using multiple
overdubs. The artist says, “All three pieces were solo overdubbed;
however I played through all the parts from the beginning to
the end, without using loops or quantisation in order to emphasise
the live atmosphere in ensemble performance. All of the mixings
are based on my concepts and I closely collaborated with each
Electric Counterpoint was scored for “as many as ten guitars
and two electric bass parts”, which were taped, and an additional
guitar performing live. Here, Kuniko’s arrangement loses the
fluid, pulsing sound of the guitar, but creates its own sound-world,
very close to other Steve Reich works for percussion. The effect
is interesting and attractive, and listening to this piece made
me forget what the original sounds like. It takes on a world
of its own as a more jumpy work, and has an attractive sound
Six Marimbas Counterpoint is an arrangement of Six Marimbas,
which, itself, is an adaptation of one of Steve Reich’s seminal
works, Six Pianos. Kuniko performs this with one part live and
five parts on tape. Compared to Reich’s own recording of this
work, the sound is fuller and richer here, but the music is
similar, and the tempo is close enough to the original that
it differs by only a few seconds. This is, in my opinion, one
of Reich’s most interesting works, and perhaps one of the best
ways to discover his music. The original Six Pianos has, I think,
a more attractive sound than the version for marimbas, but it’s
obvious that getting six pianos on a stage is difficult. This
work is full of gorgeous rhythmic interplay among the different
instruments, based around very strict rhythms.
Finally, Vermont Counterpoint Version for Vibraphone is an arrangement
of a work scored for eight flutes and tape. Here, played on
vibraphone, it gives a much different tone than the original,
yet it works just as well. As it is a work based on rhythmic
structures, percussion fits the music, and the sound Kuniko
achieves is quite attractive. The mixing is interesting as well,
with a broad soundstage spreading out the various instruments
so they sound both separate and connected at the same time.
If you’re a fan of Steve Reich’s work, you’ll certainly find
this an interesting disc. If not, it may not be the best place
to start, as the somewhat uniform approach of three works for
percussion may not be the ideal gateway to this type of minimalism.
But Reich’s music is based on rhythm, and percussion is the
most apt type of instrument to perform it.
Well conceived, and very well recorded, the only downside to
this enjoyable disc is that it is a mere 41 minutes. One or
two more works by Reich would have been nice.
Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just music on his
blog Kirkville (http://www.mcelhearn.com).