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Hyperion Records

CKD385 - Reich: Kuniko plays Reich
CKD385

Recording details: Various dates
Various recording venues
Produced by Kim Campbell
Engineered by Various engineers
Release date: May 2011
Total duration: 41 minutes 6 seconds

'Steve Reich's trademark mesmeric repetitions take on another quality here when they are lifted away from their intended scoring and given to percussion. Japanese virtuoso Kuniko finds new sonorities in Electric Counterpoint, written for guitars, when transferring it to steel pans, marimba and vibraphone, and brings Vermont Counterpoint (for flutes) to dazzling, invigorating life on the vibraphone. All these studio works involve vast amounts of pre-recording to refine their pleasing results, none more so than Six Marimbas Counterpoint which involves five pre-recorded tracks behind a solo line. It's a hypnotic and strangely calming experience' (The Observer)

'The music is familiar, but the artist isn't. This is Japanese percussionist Kuniko's debut album for Linn, in which she premieres her own percussion arrangements of three of American minimalist Steve Reich's 'counterpoints' of the 1980s—Electronic Counterpoint, Six Marimbas Counterpoint and Vermont Counterpoint. She focuses on a sound world dominated by marimba, vibraphone and steel pans, which colour these works with soft-cushioned textures. But it is her direct collaboration with Reich, and a worldwide network of top sound producers, that adds sheen to the multi-tracked finished article' (The Scotsman)

'If you're a fan of Steve Reich's work, you'll certainly find this an interesting disc … Reich's music is based on rhythm, and percussion is the most apt type of instrument to perform it' (MusicWeb International) » More

Kuniko plays Reich
Fast  [6'53]
Slow  [3'22]
Fast  [4'37]

Presented on this recording are three brand new arrangements of Steve Reich works, newly written for percussion, in celebration of his 75th birthday by one of today's most gifted percussionists. 'Kuniko Kato is a first rate percussionist who has put a lot of careful thought and hours of rehearsal into making this excellent [album]. She has created new and very beautiful arrangements' (Steve Reich). Kuniko's arrangements are simply stunning and this recording exhibits elements of her Japanese heritage to create a warm, virtuosic performance. This unique recording must be heard!


Introduction  EnglishPerformance note
Electric Counterpoint for electric guitar and tape (1987)
Electric Counterpoint (1987) was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Musicís Next Wave Festival for guitarist Pat Metheny. It was composed during the summer of 1987. The duration is about fifteen minutes. It is the third in a series of pieces (first Vermont Counterpoint in 1982 for flutist Ransom Wilson followed by New York Counterpoint in 1985 for clarinettist Richard Stolzman) all dealing with a soloist playing against a pre-recorded tape of themselves. In Electric Counterpoint the soloist pre-records as many as ten guitars and two electric bass parts and then plays the final eleventh guitar part live against the tape. I would like to thank Pat Metheny for showing me how to improve the piece in terms of making it more idiomatic for the guitar.

Electric Counterpoint is in three movements; fast, slow, fast, played one after the other without pause. The first movement, after an introductory pulsing section where the harmonies of the movement are stated, uses a theme derived from Central African horn music that I became aware of through the ethnomusicologist Simha Arom. That theme is built up in eight voice canon and while the remaining two guitars and bass play pulsing harmonies the soloist plays melodic patterns that result from the contrapuntal interlocking of those eight pre-recorded guitars.

The second movement cuts the tempo in half, changes key and introduces a new theme, which is then slowly built up to nine guitars in canon. Once again two other guitars and bass supply harmony while the soloist brings out melodic patterns that result from the overall contrapuntal web.

The third movement returns to the original tempo and key and introduces a new pattern in triple meter. After building up a four guitar canon two bass guitars enter suddenly to further stress the triple meter. The soloist then introduces a new series of strummed chords that are then built up in three guitar canon. When these are complete the soloist returns to melodic patterns that result from the overall counterpoint when suddenly the basses begin to change both key and meter back and forth between E minor and C minor and between 3/2 and 12/8 so that one hears first three groups of four eighth notes and then four groups of three eighth notes. These rhythmic and tonal changes speed up more and more rapidly until at the end the basses slowly fade out and the ambiguities are finally resolved in 12/8 and E minor.

Six Marimbas op. tr (1986) (transcription of six pianos (1973) for 6 marimbas)
Six Marimbas, composed in 1986, is a rescoring for marimbas of my earlier Six Pianos (1973). The idea to rescore came from my friend, the percussionist James Preiss, who has been a member of my ensemble since 1971 and also contributed the hand and mallet alterations that are used in this score.

The piece begins with three marimbas playing the same eight beat rhythmic pattern, but with different notes for each marimba. One of the other marimbas begins to gradually build up the exact pattern of one of the marimbas already playing by putting the notes of the fifth beat on the seventh beat, then putting the notes of the first beat on the third beat, and so on, reconstructing the same pattern with the same notes, but two beats out of phase. When this canonic relationship has been fully constructed, the two other marimbas double some of the many melodic patterns resulting from this four marimba relationship. By gradually increasing their volume they bring these resulting patterns up to the surface of the music; then, by lowering the volume they slowly return them to the overall contrapuntal web, in which the listener can hear them continuing along with many others in the ongoing four marimba relationship.

This process of rhythmic construction followed by doubling the resulting patterns is then continued in the three sections of the piece that are marked off by changes of mode and gradually higher position on the marimba, the first in D flat Major, the second in E flat dorian, and the third in B flat natural minor.

Vermont Counterpoint (1982) (for flute and tape. Ensemble version for 8 flutes)
Vermont Counterpoint (1982) was commissioned by flutist Ransom Wilson and is dedicated to Betty Freeman. It is scored for three alto flutes, three flutes, three piccolos and one solo part all pre-recorded on tape, plus a live solo part. The live soloist plays alto flute, flute and piccolo and participates in the ongoing counterpoint as well as more extended melodies. The piece could be performed by eleven flutists but is intend primarily as a solo with tape. The duration is approximately ten minutes. In that comparatively short time four sections in four different keys, with the third in a slower tempo, are presented. The compositional techniques used are primarily building up canons between short repeating melodic patterns by substituting notes for rests and then playing melodies that result from their combination. These resulting melodies or melodic patterns then become the basis for the following section as the other surrounding parts in the contrapuntal web fade out. Though the techniques used include several that I discovered as early as 1967 the relatively fast rate of change (there are rarely more than three repeats of any bar), metric modulation into and out of a slower tempo, and relatively rapid changes of key may well create a more concentrated and concise impression.

Steve Reich © 2011

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