Mallet Quartet (2009) is scored for two vibraphones and two five octave marimbas. I had never written for five octave marimbas extending down to cello C. On the one hand I was delighted to have the possibility of a low bass and on the other hand apprehensive since just slightly too hard a mallet that low can produce noise instead of pitch. Eventually, after a bit of experimentation, this was well worked out.
The piece is in three movements, fast, slow, fast. In the two outer fast movements the marimbas set the harmonic background which remains rather static compared to recent pieces of mine like Double Sextet (2007). The marimbas interlock in canon, also a procedure I have used in many other works. The vibes present the melodic material first solo and then in canon. However, in the central slow movement the texture changes into a thinner more transparent one with very spare use of notes, particularly in the marimbas. I was originally concerned this movement might just be ‘too thin’, but I think it ends up being the most striking, and certainly the least expected, of the piece.
Mallet Quartet is about 15 minutes in duration. It was co-commissioned by the Amadinda Quartet in Budapest (on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary), by Nexus in Toronto, So Percussion in New York and Synergy Percussion in Australia. The world Premiere was given by the Amadinda Quartet in Bela Bartók National Concert Hall on December 6, 2009. The American Premiere was given by So Percussion at Stanford University Lively Arts in California on January 9, 2010.
– Steve Reich
||Ensemble Series Keyboard
Medium soft. Produces a warm‚ full-bodied sound with excellent clarity for the lower two-thirds register.
L = 15 3/4" | Latex thickness = 1/8" [enlarge photo]
||Ensemble Series Keyboard
Medium. Great for the middle register. A very versatile mallet.
L = 15 3/4" | Latex thickness = 1/16" [enlarge photo]
||Pesante Series Keyboard
Hard. The most articulate mallet of the series. A bold sound‚ indeed.
L = 16 1/8" [enlarge photo]
Additional Thoughts from Adam Sliwinski:
Mallet Quartet is the first piece that Steve Reich has written for So Percussion, and we couldn't be more excited to have it! Four groups were involved in commissioning it: So, Amadinda, Nexus, and Synergy. It is written for two vibraphones and two marimbas.
Working with Reich on this piece was very gratifying, as he was willing to come to the performers whenever he wanted to try ideas out. Since this was his first-ever use of a five-octave marimba, we sent samples back and forth over email to workshop the sounds.
As you enjoy this piece, listen and watch for a few different things:
1) Where do you think beat "1" is? Reich loves to shift your perception of seemingly simple rhythms. Try to clap along at different points in the piece.
2) How do the vibraphone parts interact in the first and last parts? Hint - It's a technique that composers have been using for centuries. Watching and listening will both help you figure this out.
– Adam Sliwinski
Steve Reich was recently called "America’s greatest
living composer." (The Village VOICE), “...the
most original musical thinker of our time” (The New
Yorker) and “...among the great composers of the century” (The
New York Times).. From his early taped speech pieces It's
Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966) to his and video artist
Beryl Korot’s digital video opera Three Tales (2002),
Mr. Reich's path has embraced not only aspects of Western
Classical music, but the structures, harmonies, and rhythms
of non-Western and American vernacular music, particularly
jazz. "There's just a handful of living composers who
can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical
history and Steve Reich is one of them," states The
Performing organizations around the world marked Steve Reich's
70th- birthday year, 2006, with festivals and special concerts.
In the composer's hometown of New York, the Brooklyn Academy
of Music (BAM), Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center joined
forces to present complementary programs of his music, and
in London, the Barbican mounted a major retrospective. Concerts
were also presented in Amsterdam, Athens, Brussels, Baden-Baden,
Barcelona, Birmingham, Budapest, Chicago, Cologne, Copenhagen,
Denver, Dublin, Freiburg, Graz, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Paris,
Porto, Vancouver, Vienna and Vilnius among others. In addition,
Nonesuch Records released its second box set of Steve Reich’s
works, Phases: A Nonesuch Retrospective, in September 2006.
The five-CD collection comprises fourteen of the composer’s
best-known pieces, spanning the 20 years of his time on the
In October 2006 in Tokyo, Mr. Reich was awarded the Preamium
Imperial award in Music. This important international award
is in areas in the arts not covered by the Nobel Prize. Former
winners of the prize in various fields include Pierre Boulez,
Lucian Berio, Gyorgy Ligeti, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns,
Richard Serra and Stephen Sondheim.
In May 2007 Mr. Reich was awarded The Polar Prize from the
Royal Swedish Academy of music. The prize was presented by
His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The Swedish Academy
said: "...Steve Reich has transferred questions of faith,
society and philosophy into a hypnotic sounding music that
has inspired musicians and composers of all genres." Former
winners of the Polar Prize have included Pierre Boulez, Bob
Dylan, Gyorgi Ligeti and Sir Paul McCartney.
In December 2006 Mr. Reich was awarded membership in the
Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and in April 2007 he was
awarded the Chubb Fellowship at Yale University.
Born in New York and raised there and in California, Mr.
Reich graduated with honors in philosophy from Cornell University
in 1957. For the next two years, he studied composition with
Hall Overton, and from 1958 to 1961 he studied at the Juilliard
School of Music with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti.
Mr. Reich received his M.A. in Music from Mills College in
1963, where he worked with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud.
During the summer of 1970, with the help of a grant from
the Institute for International Education, Mr. Reich studied
drumming at the Institute for African Studies at the University
of Ghana in Accra. In 1973 and 1974 he studied Balinese Gamelan
Semar Pegulingan and Gamelan Gambang at the American Society
for Eastern Arts in Seattle and Berkeley, California. From
1976 to 1977 he studied the traditional forms of cantillation
(chanting) of the Hebrew scriptures in New York and Jerusalem.
In 1966 Steve Reich founded his own ensemble of three musicians,
which rapidly grew to 18 members or more. Since 1971, Steve
Reich and Musicians have frequently toured the world, and
have the distinction of performing to sold-out houses at
venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall and the Bottom Line Cabaret.
Mr. Reich's 1988 piece, Different Trains, marked a new compositional
method, rooted in It's Gonna Rain and Come Out, in which
speech recordings generate the musical material for musical
instruments. The New York Times hailed Different Trains as "a
work of such astonishing originality that breakthrough seems
the only possible description....possesses an absolutely
harrowing emotional impact." In 1990, Mr. Reich received
a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Composition for Different
Trains as recorded by the Kronos Quartet on the Nonesuch
In June 1997, in celebration of Mr. Reich's 60th birthday,
Nonesuch released a 10-CD retrospective box set of Mr. Reich's
compositions, featuring several newly-recorded and re-mastered
works. He won a second Grammy award in 1999 for his piece
Music for 18 Musicians, also on the Nonesuch label. In July
1999 a major retrospective of Mr. Reich’s work was
presented by the Lincoln Center Festival. Earlier, in 1988,
the South Bank Centre in London, mounted a similar series
of retrospective concerts.
In 2000 he was awarded the Schuman Prize from Columbia University,
the Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College, the Regent’s
Lectureship at the University of California at Berkeley,
an honorary doctorate from the California Institute of the
Arts and was named Composer of the Year by Musical America
The Cave, Steve Reich and Beryl Korot's music theater video
piece exploring the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar,
Ishmael and Isaac, was hailed by Time Magazine as "a
fascinating glimpse of what opera might be like in the 21st
century." Of the Chicago premiere, John von Rhein of
the Chicago Tribune wrote, "The techniques embraced
by this work have the potential to enrich opera as living
art a thousandfold....The Cave impresses, ultimately, as
a powerful and imaginative work of high-tech music theater
that brings the troubled present into resonant dialogue with
the ancient past, and invites all of us to consider anew
our shared cultural heritage."
Three Tales, a three-part digital documentary video opera,
is a second collaborative work by Steve Reich and Beryl Korot
about three well known events from the twentieth century,
reflecting on the growth and implications of technology in
the 20th century: Hindenburg, on the crash of the German
zeppelin in New Jersey in 1937; Bikini, on the Atom bomb
tests at Bikini atoll in 1946-1954; and Dolly, the sheep
cloned in 1997, on the issues of genetic engineering and
robotics. Three Tales is a three act music theater work in
which historical film and video footage, video taped interviews,
photographs, text, and specially constructed stills are recreated
on computer, transferred to video tape and projected on one
large screen. Musicians and singers take their places on
stage along with the screen, presenting the debate about
the physical, ethical and religious nature of technological
development. Three Tales was premiered at the Vienna Festival
in 2002 and subsequently toured all over Europe, America,
Australia and Hong Kong. Nonesuch is releasing a DVD/CD of
the piece in fall 2003.
Over the years, Steve Reich has received commissions from
the Barbican Centre London, the Holland Festival; San Francisco
Symphony; the Rothko Chapel; Vienna Festival, Hebbel Theater,
Berlin, the Brooklyn Academy of Music for guitarist Pat Metheny;
Spoleto Festival USA, West German Radio, Cologne; Settembre
Musica, Torino, the Fromm Music Foundation for clarinetist
Richard Stoltzman; the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; Betty
Freeman for the Kronos Quartet; and the Festival d'Automne,
Paris, for the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.
Steve Reich's music has been performed by major orchestras
and ensembles around the world, including the London Symphony
Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, New York Philharmonic
conducted by Zubin Mehta; the San Francisco Symphony conducted
by Michael Tilson Thomas; The Ensemble Modern conducted by
Bradley Lubman, The Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted
by David Robertson, the London Sinfonietta conducted by Markus
Stenz and Martyn Brabbins, the Theater of Voices conducted
by Paul Hillier, the Schoenberg Ensemble conducted by Reinbert
de Leeuw, the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by
Robert Spano; the Saint Louis Symphony conducted by Leonard
Slatkin; the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Neal Stulberg;
the BBC Symphony conducted by Peter Eötvös; and
the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson
Several noted choreographers have created dances to Steve
Reich's music, including Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker ("Fase," 1983,
set to four early works as well as"Drumming,"1998
and “Rain” set to “Music for 18 Musicians”),
Jirí Kylían ("Falling Angels," set
to “Drumming Part I”), Jerome Robbins for the
New York City Ballet ("Eight Lines") and Laura
Dean, who commissioned "Sextet". That ballet, entitled "Impact," was
premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival,
and earned Steve Reich and Laura Dean a Bessie Award in 1986.
Other major choreographers using Mr. Reich's music include
Eliot Feld, Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Maurice Bejart, Lucinda
Childs, Siobhan Davies and Richard Alston.
In 1994 Steve Reich was elected to the American Academy
of Arts and Letters, to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts
in 1995, and, in 1999, awarded Commandeur de l’ordre
des Arts et Lettres.