Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, November 02, 2007

I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now

For many years I have been a fan of the music of Steve Reich, and especially fascinated by some of his early experiments with tape loops such as Come Out. In this piece, we hear a fragment of speech played on two tape loops (later on four and eight) gradually drifting out of sync with each other. At first the effect is of a slight echo, but as the separation increases the actual speech rapidly becomes hard to distinguish, and what we are left with is patterns of high- medium- and low-frequency sounds. The high frequencies in particular comnine in strange ways to form bizarre sussurations. So Reich is pulling the sound apart horizontally, along its time axis, and thus drawing attention to its vertical (frequency) components.

Alvin Lucier, on the other hand, hit on a clever alternative: a sort of inversion of Reich's procedure. For his piece I Am Sitting In A Room, he recorded a fragment of speech, then played it back in a room, re-recorded it, played it back again and so on. This procedure amplifies the resonant frequencies of the room so that at first you hear the speech gradually becoming 'vertically' distorted, though the rhythmic aspects remain intact. Eventually the frequency distortion is so intense that the original speech rhythms become impossible to distinguish, and even spotting when the next iteration is beginning becomes hard.

Here is a link (via) to a site where you can download his recording. It's really quite extraordinary. And when you hear the recording you realise why in the text he describes the procedure as smoothing out irregularities in his speech: he has a stammer.


At 03 November, 2007 22:06, Blogger Udge said...

Strange and fascinating. Thanks!

At 10 November, 2007 09:55, Blogger Chip said...

For me... there is always a fascinating element to these sorts of experiments. I very much like Steve Reich - and feel perhaps it these experiments that led to some of his more interesting pieces (Hand Clapping).

However - as interesting as they are I don't necessarily make the leap from what they're doing to how it can be used in a musical sense. My head just doesn't seem to work that say...

Like Xenakis, there are extremely interesting elements to them and their exploration of the sound world...


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