This shouldn’t be so awesome. It’s minimalism. An ostinato instrumental (primarily piano here) laying a musical foundation that changes ever so slightly with each variation. Layered on top is a small chorus doing the same thing with, in this case, short set texts from religious and philosophical texts.
That’s basically it. “Minimalism” is the name given to the genre, and it’s not hard to grasp conceptually, and it is immediately accessible upon each listen. This genre should have been over and done well before the roughly four decades of work that have been put into it. On the contrary, it stands, with leading luminaries that you may have even heard of like Terry Riley, Phillip Glass, and Steve Reich, as the late-20th Century form of art music. With its hypnotic drones, this is the natural musical reflection of the Industrial Revolution that showed up on the heels of all the wonderful but inaccessible attempts to industrialize the music-making itself.
The first four tracks on the album are the movements of You Are (Variations) (which always makes me think of the Pearl Jam song of the same (unvariationed) name. The disc rounds out with Cello Counterpoint, which here is a soloist playing along with a recording of an octet of other cellos. In the liner notes, Reich says that he stopped writing for entire orchestras because he didn’t need that much to convey his statements, and that’s so wonderfully demonstrated here where he fully plumbs the depths of a single instrument to bring up realms of beauty and wonder.
I’ve been listening to this for weeks now, trying to figure out how I was going to write about it. I still haven’t figured it out, so I’m just going to let what’s been said above stand. I don’t have an expertise in minimalism or even Steve Reich. In fact, the main reason I picked this up in that guy’s garage for one dollar was because I had no Reich. So now I do and I’m really happy with this CD. I don’t think I need to say any more than that anyway.
– “You Are Wherever Your Thoughts Are,” “Cello Counterpoint”
– “Shiviti Hashem L’negdi (I place the eternal before me),” “Explanations Come To An End Somewhere,” “Ehmore M’aht, V’ahsay Harbay (Say little and do much)”
Filed Between: Reel Big Fish (“Everything Sucks/Unity/241” promotional cassette) and Brian Reitzell (30 Days Of Night Soundtrack)