Minimalist Structure in Steve Reich's 'Electric Counterpoint/II'

Dr. Charles J. Ditto
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To a large extent, minimalist music is “pre-composed,” or at least “predetermined,” in the sense that the final product is the result of a relatively small amount of musical material set into motion by a series of motoric processes.

An analysis of the second movement of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint can yield insights into the nature of these processes--the underlying structure of a music devoid not only of traditional motivic development and tonal function, but also music in which the Western concept of tension and release is supplanted with an Eastern contemplative staticity. This movement offers a particularly clear exposition of typical minimalist techniques pioneered by Steve Reich, specifically “phasing” or “phase-shifting” (the simultaneous sounding of the same melodic material in two or more parts, but shifted from one another by some measure of time, à la canon) and “pulsing” (the building and sustaining of vertical sonorities by the playing of long stretches of quick repeated notes). But far from being simply a dry mechanistic construction, analysis reveals a rational grid of compositional decisions that precisely determine the details of the musical fabric. There is symmetry and there is curious breaking of symmetry. At every level, there is a tight control.

Keywords: New Art Music Finds a Mass Audience, Structure in Minimalism
Stream: Audiences, Analysing Artforms, Meaning and Representation, Other or Stream Unspecified
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Charles J. Ditto

Professor of Music, School of Music, Texas State University/San Marcos
San Marcos, Texas, USA

Charles Ditto is a composer and musician in central Texas. He received a BM in composition from the University of Houston in 1977. He established Ditto Records and Human Symphony Music, and has produced and marketed eight albums of original music to date. Performance credits include Walter Hyatt, Rajamani Gypsy Orchestra, and Kevin Fowler. He received a MM (1992) and DMA (1998) in composition from the University of Texas/Austin. His professional assignments have included commissioned scores for theater and dance for Peter Lobdell (New York and Amherst), the University of Texas, Amherst College, KO Theater Works , Inc., the Sharir Dance Co. (Austin), Diana Prechter, Impulso (Monterrey), and Kenesis. His score for "Raving," has been selected for performances at the International Michael Chekhov Festival (2005) in Amherst and the Metropolitan Playhouse (2006) in New York. He was the recipient of the Copeland Fellowship at Amherst College for the spring of 1998. Ditto currently teaches at the School of Music at Texas State University in San Marcos.

Ref: A06P0451