Saturday, September 01, 2007

Steve Reich on WCW's "The Desert Music"

From Perfect Sound Forever. The influence of Williams on Reich is new info to me. I'm intrigued.

"PSF: Did you also have the idea that you wanted to explore the semantics of what was being said?

In those days, I was very interested in American poetry. My interest in William Carlos Williams which surfaced in "Desert Music" was something that goes back to when I was 16. Reading Williams led to reading a lot of younger American poets like Robert Creely and Charles Olson who were very influenced by Williams. Williams himself was influenced by American speech rhythms. The difficulty that I had as a student setting Williams was that I felt that I had set him like you would set an insect in amber. You'd set it alright but he's dead as a doornail. After I discovered all the constantly changing meters in "Tehillim" I thought 'hey, here's a way of dealing with the flexible rhythms in Williams' poetry in "The Desert Music."'

But the tape pieces, it seemed to me, were a way of taking Dr. Williams' advice. Here's American speech rhythm, particularly in the case of the black Pentacostal preacher and later in the black kid who was arrested for murder, then presenting it just as it is and letting the actual rhythm and cadence of the voice form the music.

PSF: So you were also studying the musical tone of their speech?

Yes, absolutely. If you listen to a black preacher, sometimes it's hard to say whether they're singing or speaking. They're exactly in the cusp between speech and song. It's a very mannered kind of speaking. It's almost chanting. So it was perfect for this kind of tape manipulation. Later, when I did "Come Out," to get that one little phrase 'come to out to show them,' I went through ten hours of tapes- boys, police, mothers, everyone you could imagine. This one phrase seemed emblematic. The speech-melody is everything. It then generates all kinds of variations upon itself melodically and on the meaning of the words."

Read the whole thing here

No comments: