some scattered thoughts on playing Music for 18 Musicians
I feel most tuned in when, on some level, I feel as if the sound I hear someone else making is somehow being made by myself
in particular, the hocket between pianos 1 and 2 feels best when, playing the eighth notes tenuto, the release of the chord feels as if it triggers the other player’s attack.
whither that piano hocket? is it just about creating the composite sound? Reich goes out of his way to really ask for that hocket rather than the LRLRLR/RLRLRL ossia; one perhaps is concern for the involved muscles – is it easier on the body to just play one chord at a time rather than alternate? – but I also think once locked in, it may keep the players more mentally present, and more accountable, moment to moment, for the rhythmic integrity. that part shouldn’t be “easy”, neither do I think it should appear easy, but I do think it should appear effortless – an outward expression of a constant alertness.
as a pianist – the tenuto articulation is key to the rhythmic integrity of the piece, even in ostinato/melodic figures. by treating each eighth note as an on/off switch, a system of “latches” is created that keeps the machine running.
every part has a very specific function in the ensemble, carrying specific responsibilities and dependencies.
marimba 1 appears the engine of the entire piece. however, the steadiness of marimba 1 seems in part to depend on the ostinato patterns of marimba 3.
between the pianos, piano 3 has the most melodic material – a sibling to the xylophones. piano 4 is mostly ostinato patterns – tethered to marimba 3
first clarinetist has a part just as important as the vibraphonist, in terms of moving the proceedings along.
and so on
the entropic force of the piece is the tendency of the tempo to drag. this is has been most apparent in Section IX; in previous rehearsals, Section VI. I wonder if different performing groups have different “weak sections”.
the anatomy of the “waves” in the Pulses section is actually more precise than I had ever been led to believe: indeed there is a specifically engineered klangfarbenmelodie effect that requires the ensemble members to carefully coordinate the peaks of their respective swells so as to sound like one large billowing gesture.
a lot of the klangfarbenmelodie went unnoticed in all my years of knowing the recording. playing in the ensemble and noticing how, for example, the voices modulate to the violin sound in Section IV, ameliorates so much of my disorientation about the larger structure of the piece.