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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.
from notes by Steve Reich © 2011