For a man often credited as playing a pivotal part in the history of music, Steve Reich is as unassuming as they get. At the start of tonight’s concert, he slips on to the stage, baseball cap pulled low, and with no preamble or fanfare, joins the London Sinfonietta’s principal percussionist to perform Clapping Music.
This ‘minimalist classic’ hit a chord with the listening public back in 1971, and over forty years later – after hip hop, and sampling… and Stomp! – it is no less effective, the simple, interlocking patterns produced by two sets of clapping hands receiving hearty applause.
In hindsight, it appears that it’s a vintage slice of ’90s chill-out music
The duo are replaced by lone guitarist Mats Bergström, who picks out the warm, clean, echo-ing lines of Electric Counterpoint, which in hindsight appears to be a vintage slice of ’90s chill-out music – and not least because it was sampled by The Orb on Little Fluffy Clouds.
Indeed, the evening’s perfectly pitched programme of career highlights ably demonstrates how Reich’s influence has weaved its way through the last 50 years of classical and popular music, justifying those lofty claims regarding his status.
This is of course given bang-up-to-date affirmation by his reworking of two Radiohead songs, the ‘sell’ which finds a healthy dose of Brighton trendies sitting amongst the beards and sensible shirts in the audience. (Although, being Brighton, the young and hip are rarely more than a stone’s throw away whatever the occasion.)
Reich’s particular use of repetition and phasing is evident in Radiohead’s glitchy electronica, but where the two artists really dovetail is in their use of insistent, edgy rhythms, which either underscore the musical expression or take centre stage.