How to describe this? People speaking about their view of Abraham from a Jewish, Muslim and American perspective. This is top draw minimalism with repetitive speech and music but it's simplicity is some how hypnotic and captivating. As other reviewers have said if you like Different Trains or City Life you will enjoy this. Steve Reich is one of the best living composers and this piece is worth a listen and the subject has relevance to us today where the co-operation between Judaism and Islam is crucial to peace in the middle east.
Steve Reich and his wife, Beryl Korot, joined forces to produce 'The Cave', a new development in musical performance. The original performance fused Reich's live music with multiple video tracks co-ordinated by Korot. The electric 'Typing Music', which opens the piece when performed live, melds typed text onscreen with sound, as the words are literally rapped out. Exciting stuff, however I'm not convinced that the cds quite catch the drama of the live performance. Subsequent tracks use Reich's technique of putting music to the recorded spoken word, as first used in 'Different Trains'. Reich and Korot interviewed Jews and non-Jews from Jerusalem and from the US and asked them a series of simple open-ended questions about key figures in Jewish history/faith, such as Abraham and Sarah. The results are put to music by Reich, using much longer phrases and less editing than he used in 'Different Trains'. Personally, I think the results make an interesting documentary, but are rather less successful musically than 'Different Trains'.
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Readers who have heard Reich's previous "Different Trains" or his later "City Life" or "Three Tales" will already have come across his astonishing technique of setting rich and vibrant music to match the tones and rythyms of everyday speech.
Here, once again, he takes recordings of various people (academics, religious leaders, Carl Sagan) who are responding to questions such as "Who Is Abraham". The orchestrations are richer than "Different Trains", and so we get Reich's trademark vibes/piano/oboe/flute against the previous work's string quartet stylings.
It is often startling to hear the richness present in everyday speech patterns, and there are interesting contrasts and similarities between the speech of Arabic, Jewish and American speakers. This is even (in the case of Carl Sagan, for example) amusing, bordering on parody. (It shows up Steve's prejudices a little though, that he sounds like he's mocking those he doesn't agree with, such as Sagan, or Dawkins on "Three Tales")
This speech-pattern music is contrasted with quotes from the Old Testament, presumably to show the common ground between Jews, Muslims and Christians. The biblical verses are sung by a choir rather than a tape of interviewees, and have a clapping rythym similar to Reich's "Clapping Music". This touches on the Jewish idea that speech, number and rythym is strongly related. This quote music will be familiar to those who have heard "Tehilim".
A third element is field recording from "the cave of the patriarchs" - the place where Abraham and Adam and Eve are supposedely buried and a remaining relic from the garden of eden. Recordings from within this cave have an "implied a-minor drone" - which flavours the entire piece - not just the key, but the beautifully warm reverb which envelops the strings, piano and vibes.
The overall effect is to contract the words of Jews and Palestinians (who are more or less united by their strong and unquestioning beliefs) and Americans (who seem cynical, confused or ignorant - "I have no idea" is one phrase repeated over and over).
If you have enjoyed Reich's music, this is a must-have. General music lovers should give it a try - it is very approachable for a twentieth century work. It develops the classical idiom further by adding the sampling keyboard to the instruments of the orchestra. Even pop fans may like it, for Reich's work is influenced as much by pop and jazz as by classical music. It is an excellent quality recording - crystal clear vocals and separated instruments.
I am not religious in my outlook, but I find this very moving and life-affirming. It is also extremely stately and beautiful - I find it the warmest piece in Reich's canon of work. It shows him moving away from the cold intellect of minimalism and increasingly influenced by the humanism of his faith.
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