Steve Reich – Three Tales

I purchased Steve Reich’s Three Tales maybe a year ago, while visiting New York. I remember putting it on the stereo when I got back to San Francisco and not thinking much of it, so it rested in my collection without much attention.

This past December I had purchased another copy for Dr. Boulanger as I found out he was a bit of a Reich fan, and so we listened to the CD while travelling down the highway in his car. I think we were both pretty floored by the music.

I found the blending of live instruments and sampled/processed sounds to work really well, and the contrasts of the vocal harmonies with the rest of the musical texture to be very tasty. The things that really stood out for me was his harmonies, as well as his use of the English language in sung text.

I debated using text for some time a while back and I never found a way that seemed to work for me. Perhaps it’s just that I’m native speaker of English that it doesn’t usually work for me, but most uses of English in sung text always sounded somewhat Broadway-ish. However, I really think Reich does a great job with text. (I don’t think I’ll ever end up using text though, perhaps a limitation of my own…)

Last night I finally got around to watching the videos and found myself mesmerized. I found myself appreciating the movies very much, and the music more so now. Reading the reviews on Amazon I can see how some of the not so favorable opinions of the video work by Beryl Korot could be construed, but I found the work effective.

Maybe the more interesting question to come out of this is: how is it that sometimes in engaging with a new work I find it dismissable, when later approaching it I find it affecting? Since it’s happened a number of times to me, I think I’m more prone to give things another shot. Maybe it’s just a limitation on my own part, maybe tastes just change. Either way, I’m glad I spent time to take another look (and listen) to these pieces.

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