Steve Reich’s delicate electric mechanism in the hands of Pierre Bibault, Pierre Bibault’s “Steve Reich”, Music Aquare, 2021 on #neuguitars #blog #stevereich
Each album, each recording of a scores expresses a narration which in turn refers to other scores, other albums, other behaviors, other desires and composers. Pierre Bibault’s album is a complex mix of stories, interpretations, attitudes. It is an electric narrative that if on the one hand pays homage to Steve Reich’s work, “the body electric”, in the time of his 85th birthday, on the other hand it revisits a compositional process that we could now define as “simultaneously classic”. Reich, like Glass, was able to blend an innovative attitude with an almost pop media narrative that led him to create captivating compositions for both the audience and the performers.
An attitude, a thought that I find perfectly represented by the photo of his famous baseball hat that we find as a cover on the Bibault CD. Bibault himself, a classical and academically trained guitarist, has been able to embrace the electric guitar’s form and a current approach by first choosing to promote the collection of funds necessary to make this album through crowfounding and then promoting its sale and promotion on Bandcamp, as would a jazz or pop guitarist, an improviser. One might think that guitar music compilations based on Steve Reich’s repertoire are commonplace for guitarists, classical and / or electric, but this is not the case. This is the second one that enters my archive and follows the beautiful work “Steve Reich Guitar Works” by Japanese Yasushi Takemura, released by the record company Miru Records in 2014. Reich’s music in particular Electric counterpoint is often followed by guitarists, but as single pieces, not as a whole, not as a more extended representation. So these monographic works are truly welcome, even if guitarists could dare something more by developing transcriptions of other scores composed by the New York composer. It is true that of the three compositions performed by Bibault
1. Nagoya Guitars 04:58
2. Electric Counterpoint: No. 1, Fast 06:53
3. Electric Counterpoint: No. 2, Slow 03:24
4. Electric Counterpoint: No. 3, Fast 04:33
5. Electric Guitar Phase 17:57
only “Electric Counterpoint” was specially written by Reich for Pat Metheny’s guitar, but the intrinsic qualities of the music of the most famous living American composer, or rather, the characteristics of the musical processes adopted by Reich, often allow an interesting transposition also for other instruments.
Steve Reich wrote the opera “Nagoya Marimbas” in response to a commission from Nagoya College of Music in Japan. When composer Aaron Jay Kernis heard this work, he pointed it out to his friend David Tannenbaum, suggesting a possible transcription for guitar. Which Tannenbaum did, completing the transcript, in consultation with Reich. “Nagoya Guitars” is a completely minimalist work: it starts with a flicker, mostly going down to the bass theme, and, after many chord movements based on an incessant movement, eventually ends on a similar theme, but ascending in a much higher register. Here we find all the best characteristics of Reich’s minimalism: the tension created by the repetition, the unstoppable movement that gives impetus to the piece, and the development of the theme, managed little by little, which seems inevitable and perfect for the listener. Those who love minimalism will find this work very interesting. Bibault adds something else about it, probably the result of his background: he plays a more “classic” and clean version, with an obsessive attention to sound detail. The cd continues with the three movements of Electric Counterpoint, probably the most beloved of the contemporary pieces for electric guitar that has ever been composed and played. “Electric Guitar Phase”, on the other hand, shows a more rock attitude, at times almost mainstream. The American guitarist Dominic Frasca picked up the piece Violin Phase‚ originally composed for four violins in 1967‚ elaborating it for four overdubbed guitars in the album “Reich Triple Quartet”, released by Nonesuch Records in 2001. Also this piece, you can hear quite clearly the stylistic features on which Reich built his musical language: phase shifting, superimposition and modulations. There are four parts that come out and come back “in phase” with the tonality that never changes, thus basing everything on a mind-boggling polyrhythmic work. And if the electric instrument, in its various overlays, lacks a bit from the expressive point of view, there is something new in the piece, a new emphasis that attracts my attention and that never ceases to excite me. Here the result is pure joy. Playful minimalism. The album closes with the “classic” Clapping Music, here in its original version, which, even if not transcribed for guitar, can work as an ideal closure for the CD and a concert.
Whoever listens to Reich’s music cannot remain indifferent to the idea of process underlying it, a creative mechanical process that is the son of modernism, the son of the electric machine played by Pierre Bibault. Is he playing it or is he being played? Sometimes listening to Reich’s music one has the clear feeling that are the musicians who are being played, as part of the process itself, as an organic creative unity inherent in the music itself … but, perhaps, I am digressing into an excess of intellectualism. “Steve Reich” by Pierre Bibault is an excellent album and an intense tribute to the personality of Steve Reich, guitarists take example.