Systems In Time, Almeida Theatre, London
Wednesday 13 July 2005
Its meshing of real drones with the textural illusions conjured by fast repetition and high amplification results in a heady, hedonistic, very Sixties experience. David Bowie and Brian Eno heard it in London in 1971. But the composer deemed it "a little too spacey for my tastes" and dropped it from his group's repertoire.
Like its companion all-Reich programme the previous night (both curated by Richard Bernas, linked with Tate Modern's Open Systems exhibition), Icebreaker's recreation of Music with Changing Parts drew a near-full house. James Poke's realisation for 12 musicians, including several electric keyboards and saxophones, was conceived to offer textural contrast and to maximise the pleasures of those drones.
The use of bass guitar, and marimba in the later stages, helped to make the bass textures too heavy and sluggish; more opportunity should probably be taken to share the two-part writing, as at the opening, around a greater variety of instruments. The performance itself suffered a few problems: tempo fluctuation, the odd patch of chaos, some strange balance and intermittent feedback for the first 15 minutes or so.
Overall, however, it had a great deal going for it, with exciting moments worthy of its original zany spirit. I hope Icebreaker continue working on it for touring.
In the good old days of the Almeida Festivals in the Eighties, this hour-long performance would have been preceded on the night by Music Projects' modest Reich sequence as part of a celebration of early minimalism. The Reich evening was most notable for Nancy Ruffer's sensitive account of Vermont Counterpoint and a rare performance of Four Organs that, while sometimes inaccurate, gamely cracked this minimalist tough nut open for another large audience's delight.
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