About this Piece
After writing the requisite 12-tone music taught in schools at the time, Steve Reich (b. 1936) and many of the other composers on tonight's program arrived at Minimalism; Reich was a percussionist who was led to Minimalism through rhythm and pulse. Like many of the composers programmed tonight, Reich was influenced by many musics outside of the Western Classical model - especially African drumming and Balinese gamelan, jazz, and early rock'n'roll. Four Organs (1970) is the most rigidly structured and rudimentary version of Minimalism on tonight's program. The piece began with a sentence: "short chord gets long," and it is just that: a dominant 11th chord sounds together for a split second at the opening, then is broken down over the course of fifteen minutes, note by note, as if a computer could reveal the order in which each finger struck each key by slowing the piece down incrementally. In the end the effect for the listener is to perhaps hear anew the oldest harmonic progression in Western music: V-I.
- Jessie Rothwell is the Publications Coordinator for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She also writes music, plays the oboe, and sings Bulgarian folk music.