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Thursday, May 14, 2009

On the Double Sextet Recording (and Shocking Bonus Surprise Steve Reich Content)

O Internet! Every day is a little journey. Each link leads to another link leads to another link and that's how I never get anything done. Today's journey began thus: I read Nico's blog this morning, which repeated an oft-twittered complaint, namely, "How come I can't buy the recording of Double Sextet yet?" Well, one reason is that there isn't a studio recording yet, just that live recording with the eighth blackbird/Oberlin CME dodectet that you may have heard streaming for a limited time online. It's an exciting document, certainly worth hearing (and surreptitiously downloading to your iPod while you, Reich addict and clever URL-hacker that you are, had the chance), but not really worth shelling out for when there's going to be a nice audiophile studio recording in the pipeline. Like, listening to it now, I think I hear a little "unintentional phasing" around 3:30 in the first movement. Totally excusable in concert, not so much in a permanent document—and who's going to pay twice for both downloads? But that's not what Nico is saying, I don't think. (Is he?) He's saying, how come I can't buy the recording till 20fricking11? Isn't that kind of ridiculous? Well yeah, it is kind of. Now to be fair, Nonesuch is usually a pretty good label for this sort of thing—they're less interested in packing a disc with the standard 60-80 minutes of music than they are in putting a piece in its appropriate context. Kronos Quartet has put out series of "singles," long pieces that wouldn't fit onto one of their crazy grab-bag records but wouldn't fill out full-lengths on their own; John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls would have made awkward company for any pairing (Side A: Transmigration, Side B: Scratchband!!! Um, no); and perhaps most perversely, they did a Nellie McKay with his release of Dharma at Big Sur and Yo Momma Blew Charles Ives, reflecting his bicoastal sensibility with a two-disc set clocking in under the length of a single disc. But it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Just frinstance, while we continue wait for a CD of the Thomas Adès Violin Concerto, assuming that EMI has not crumbled into dust before they find something to pair it with, we can make do with the mp3 recording up on those iTunes. Nonesuch is usually a little ahead of the curve with this sort of thing—like, you get a free download of every purchase when you buy the disc off their website, and Steve Reich alone has two download-only releases available from them already—but is this a sign that they could be a little further-ahead still? Lossless soundfiles, maybe? Downloadable booklets? The DG Webshop already offers those things with downloads of their new releases. Why can't everybody be more like the DG Webshop? DG Webshop, stand up, you get a gold star. OH HEY BUT SO BUT!! I clicked on the link in Nico's post, which led me to this interesting Steve Reich interview, whose comment section, in turn, led me to this YET MORE INTERESTING interview, a revealing double-profile of Steve Reich and Beryl Korot, which you should all go read right now now now, even though the default when you click on that link is an annoying full-screen mode which, if you are me, you will immediately disable. It also includes, are you EVEN ready for this, a bonus clip from the primitive MIDI demo mock-up of Reich's forthcoming piece for "all rock-and-roll people," 2 x 5:

Steve Reich - 2 x 5
Okay, CRAZY. I gotta hear how this turns out. (In 2011.)

2 comments:

Tim Munro said...

Gday Mr Johnson,

Interesting post!

(We're really looking forward to recording the piece, especially now that we have it so completely in our blood.)

In case you're interested, I did an interview with the good Mr Reich about Double Sextet - here's a link:
http://www.eighthblackbird.com/content/view/214/122/

Robert Gordon said...

The obvious pairing for the Adès Violin Concerto is the Salonen Violin Concerto. I wonder if that's even possible, corporately speaking.

"Unintentional phasing", what a great phrase. Last night I heard John Adams conduct A Flowering Tree at Disney Hall, and there were a few examples of same. Hard piece, but Adams is not the most technically expert conductor either. Probably Adès or Salonen would have done a better job.