You don’t really just listen to a Steve Reich composition. You sink into it. You let it wash over you like a spring rain. You soak it up and absorb it.
Earlier this month, EMPAC at RPI hosted Signal, one of the world’s foremost new music ensembles, and the program was a pair of Reich’s richest, most rewarding works.
His Pulitzer Prize winning composition, “Double Sextet,” kicked off the concert spotlighting Reich’s continued fascination with and exploration of patterns and interlocking rhythms. The 25-minute piece was written – as you might guess from the title – for two six-member ensembles. Seated on stage in mirror image, the 12 players are paired: two violins, two cellos, two flutes, two pianos, two clarinets and two percussionists.
As highly rhythmic lines ricocheted off of one another, moods crosscut between scenes in an instant — basically, quintessential Steve Reich. Under the direction of Brad Lubman, the piece began with the pianos conjuring up a distinctly urban setting with their rapid-fire, uptempo playing. The breezy flutes blew across the musical landscape and the churning city rhythms, the hustle and hub-bub of rush hour. The clarinets were warm and woody. Marimbas shimmered like a summer heatwave. The strings echoed the factory whistle in the distance.