Release Date: Sep 30, 2014
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Classical, Avant-Garde, Chamber Music, Modern Composition
Radiohead have reached the kind of rarefied air that few bands could ever hope to arrive at. They are so commercially successful that they can sell out stadiums all over the world and have their every last move be scrutinized with a jeweler’s loupe. At the same time, their music remains so melodically and rhythmically complex that it has been covered by dozens of jazz and contemporary classical ensembles.
Music is ultimately there to inspire, be borrowed, remixed, played and used by others (but not stolen, heaven forbid). Indeed, there are few more inspirational than minimalist pioneer Steve Reich: everyone from Brian Eno to post-rock’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor owe a debt to Reich, as do slightly later minimalists such as Michael Nyman and John Adams. Of course, Reich owes a debt to the pioneer of modern avant-garde music – if not the father of modern music – the great John Cage.
When Steve Reich heard Jonny Greenwood perform his 1987 classic Electric Counterpoint at a Polish festival, he was swamped. By his own admission, he was floundering beneath a massive, unmanageable multiple-orchestra commission for the London Sinfonietta, and watching Greenwood's bracing, devoted rendition, originally written for Pat Metheny, he felt something settle in with a "click." It occurred to him that, despite friends' repeated urgings, he had yet to "check out" Radiohead, so he finally did. Radio Rewrite, a five-movement piece built on themes from Radiohead songs, was the result.
The first release of Radio Rewrite, premiered in London by the London Sinfonietta last year, brings the Steve Reich discography up to date. Though its starting point is a pair of Radiohead songs, Jigsaw Falling Into Place and Everything in Its Right Place, Radio Rewrite uses just a few of their melodic tags and harmonic tendencies, and fixes that raw material in a musical template that is recognisably that of Reich – a continuous five-section, fast-slow-fast-slow-fast scheme, in which the first of the songs is used in the faster music and the second the slower. It’s typical late Reich, not exploring new territory perhaps, but as Alarm Will Sound’s performance shows, it does what it does immaculately and satisfyingly.