There are 2,804 seats at Carnegie Hall and each one was filled with an awestruck, reverent music geek with glasses and bed head. Or at least that was how it felt.
In celebration of Steve Reich’s 70th birthday three of his most famous pieces were performed.
Pat Metheny, who has managed to look exactly the same since 1977, performed “Electric Counterpoint” with echoes and tape loops of himself. It was only 15 minutes, but it was pretty damned impressive.
The Kronos Quartet came up next to perform Different Trains, which was the first Reich piece I ever heard. If you’ve never heard it, the string quartet mirrors the melodic lines of recorded speech. Reich, an American Jew who took a lot of trains in the early 40s, interviewed people associated with those train rides from his youth as well as holocaust survivors his age. The sentence fragments are repeated in syncopation with train noises and the rhythms of the quartet. Trust me, it’s breathtaking.
Up third was the star of the show: Steve Reich and Musicians performing Music for 18 Musicians.
Like a shmuck, I didn’t bring my camera — as seeing this piece done live (as it is rarely done) is a visual treat as well. It’s kinda like seeing 18 workers at Wonka’s factory — rushing about from their marimbas to xylophones, furiously knocking away at their tools, trading places with others, all in their own little world but all in (supercharged) speed with one another. I don’t know how they can keep it up for 60 minutes without their arms getting very tired. The above photo is similar (but I only count 13) – and instead of longhairs, they today all look like lit professors.
When the piece ended, there was a stunned silence that seemed to last an eternity before anyone wanted to break the spell and applaud. It was either a flabbergasted reverence or no one knew if the piece was over. Not sure. Either way, the bass clarinets, cello, violin and 900 clangling, banging pieces of tonal percussion had close to 3,000 people hardcore deep in the zone. I was worried for a moment that I was going to fall to a case of Stendahl Syndrome, I got a little dizzy & sweaty. It was just at that time when it appeared that the 18 musicians (blazing at lightspeed through shifting polyrhythmic patterns) kinda lost their way too. . .just for a tenth of a second, and the lead vibraphonist had to click his sticks together to keep everyone in time. That’s synchronicity has got to mean something.
In all: unbefuckinglievable