Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who Left the Barn Door Open?

You may remember that last year I noted that I usually don't appreciate the Pultizer Prize winners in music but with David Lang's win, I was going to have to reconsider my position. We, it appears as though once minimalist-influenced composers broke that particular glass ceiling, there is no going back. A panel including David Lang has chosen Steve Reich's Double Sextet as this year's winner. One of the most influential composers of the past 50 years, Reich managed to change music by radically simplifying its materials. Although he's since moved on from the hard-edged process-driven music of the 1960s and early 1970s, his music still features the strong, regular pulse and polytonal harmonic structures that characterized that style. Double Sextet was written for Eighth Blackbird, one of the premier New Music ensembles today and features two identical sextets of instruments, each made up of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone and piano. Those sextets can be 12 instrumentalists or six who play with a recording of themselves. NPR has a substantial excerpt from the work on their website or you can get a sense of it from this video of Eighth Blackbird recording it:

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