Steve REICH (b.1936)
Kuniko Plays Reich
Electric Counterpoint Version for Percussions:-
Movement I: Fast [6:53]
Movement II: Slow [3:22]
Movement III: Fast [4:37]
Six Marimbas Counterpoint [16:26]
Vermont Counterpoint Version for Vibraphone [9:48]
Kuniko Kato (percussion)
rec. Nagoya University of Arts, School of Music, Nagoya, Japan, 28-29 March 2010.
LINN CKD 385 [41:18]
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 recording engineer.”
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 and energy.
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
Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville (
Interesting percussion arrangements of three works by minimalist Steve Reich.