May 18, 2008

The Steve Reich Influence

Steve Reich, more than any other minimalist composer of the 20th century, had a profound impact on popular music. In particular, several prominent electronic music and rock music acts, such as the Orb, DJ Spooky, Tortoise, Spirtualized and Oval, cite Reich as a major influence. It's no secret why: minimalist music, much like the works of dance music, post-rock and, to a lesser extent, space rock, are wrapped in repetition, progressing via minimal change, requiring the listener to pay closer attention to the music at hand.

Though many of Reich's work are seminal, particularly 1976's ethereal Music for 18 Musicians, Electric Counterpoint (1987) is Reich's most sampled work in popular music. Broken down into three movements, "Fast," "Slow" and "Fast," the piece is a blend of Reich's early tape recording works and melodic beauty of works like Music for 18 Musicians. The technique of the piece is simple: a soloist records an electric guitar riff, loops it, and repeats the process. Ultimately, the piece has up to 10 guitar loops playing against the one live guitarist.

From personal listening experience, I know that the work has been sampled by three popular music artists: the Orb ("Little Fluffy Clouds"), RJD2 ("the Proxy") and Bullinuts ("Pizzle Road Rhapsody"). Here's the first movement of Electric Counterpoint, "Fast," followed by "Little Fluffy Clouds" and "the Proxy." Enjoy.

Steve Reich - Electric Counterpoint (Fast) [Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint LP, 1988]

The Orb - Little Fluffy Clouds [Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld LP, 1991]

RJD2 - The Proxy [Dead Ringer LP, 2002]

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