Review: The Colin Currie Group - Steve Reich’s Drumming @ SDH
Steve Reich is regarded as one of the most important and influential composers of today.
But I have had some debates with my brother as to whether he is a household name.
My brother would whole-heartedly and teasingly state he had never heard of him. Of course, what he fails to understand is that he would have definitely heard his music, without even realising it. His music has been used in numerous films, TV shows and adverts.
But after a concert of his in London (where he was performing), I asked for an autograph, as some people had done that night. He walked past me and said, "I’m fine, thank youâ€¦" much to my frustration and disappointment. This would put most people off, but I have looked beyond this to appreciate his music and perhaps even regard him as one of my favourite composers (quite an honour really!).
The Colin Currie Group at Saint David’s Hall was an event I did not want to miss. They preformed Reich’s Drumming. After hearing this work, I would regard it as one of the best concerts I have attended this year (if not, the best). I was a bit tired yet highly caffeinated. My heart raced during the concert.
For those who have not had an introduction to his compositions, they are rooted in the minimalist movement, which emerged in the late 1960s and early 70s. The movement could be seen as a blatant refusal in accepting ‘classical music’ that had developed in the 1950s into the atonal, chromatic and serialism modes of composition (i.e. that ‘awful music’ some people often moan about). Granted minimalism is the complete opposite of this and can appeal to a wider audience in its accessibility.
The music is of course, repetitive and for a point. These repetitions are pivotal in the music, for when the ‘turning points’ occur. The listeners can let the score wash over them and it is a serene experience, close to some form of meditation in my view. Other composers such as Phillip Glass and John Adams don’t care for the term ‘minimalist composers’, yet this is what they are most known as.
As the name would suggest, several drums were on stage along side an army of percussion instruments. Marimbas, xylophones, glockenspiels, vibraphones, two singers and a piccolo were all incorporated in the event, along with synthesizers. After the piece began and the work progressed in the thunderous introduction for the drums, I sat there mesmerised at the stamina of the players. How on earth could they keep focus when the work is so immensely hypnotic? Not a conductor in sight eitherâ€¦
I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the wondrous nature of the music. It evoked in me something primal, something pagan. To have gotten up and danced would have seemed appropriate, but the European stuffiness that is the classical concert hall, would have disapproved. Reich has taken influences from anywhere but Europe for this. He visited Africa in the hope of inspiration for this work, but had to leave due to malaria. It certainly worked as the drums have yet to see finer moments in a concert hall.
Each of the players had a different coloured shirt on. For some reason they all had a certain sex appeal. Granted some of them may not have been the most handsome, but that did not matter. It was what they were doing that changed this notion.
Behind me sat I assume, English music students. One of them at the end of the performance said ‘You wouldn’t listen to that at home’. Well, that’s beside the point. It's all in the experience of hearing it live. They should teach her betterâ€¦
It was the piccolo player who ‘ended’ the performance with a few conducting motions. She rose from her seat when towards the percussions centre stage and with a few flicks of her arm, it was over. I also vowed not to make a single note during the performance. I was transfixed. I was the only one who gave a standing ovation at the end. I assure you they deserved it.
Our ears had been treated to something marvellous.
A staggering experience...