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Artist: Steve Reich
Steve Reich - Echo 20/21: Drumming CD
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Regular Price: $16.95
On Sale For: $8.48 
Year: 2003
Format: CD


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2-disc set.

"Drumming" is composer Steve Reich's most adventurous and challenging composition. Composed between 1970 and 1971, "Drumming" takes the genre of percussion-based music to a new level. Its use of syncopated and phase-shifting rhythms remains innovative (and some would say pioneering) even today.
The original recording of "Drumming" was made in Germany in 1974 and was released on the Deutsch Grammaphone Label. This version had been unavailable for many years and had become a sought-after collectors item. However, all things must come to pass because now, the much sought-after original recording of "Drumming" has been issued on CD for the very first time at its original length of 84-minutes (the later 1987 recording on Nonesuch Records featured a trimmed-down version running at 56-minutes).

"Drumming" is divided into four distinct parts or movements. The first part is performed entirely on three sets of tuned bongos played with drumsticks. It begins with a single drumbeat which builds up to a syncopated rhythm which carries the entire piece the rest of the way. Throughout it's 25-minutes, this opening section explores nearly every possibility of what can be done with a single simple repeated rhythm. The method of 'phase-shifting' (having one player go out of synch with the other) adds further complexity.

The first part leads directly into the second part as the bongos fade out and the marimbas take over. The marimbas carry on with the piece's simple rhythm which is augmented by two female singers mimicking the pitches with vocal scats. As this part of the piece progresses, the marimbas gradually move from their lowest register to their highest. Like the first part, the hypnotic rhythms are made deceptively complex by the use of phase-shifting.

When the marimbas have reached their highest register, the glockenspiels take over. This begins the third part of the piece. This part is reverse of the second one. The glockenspeils begin at their highest register and gradually make their way to the lowest. Instead of having vocalists mimick the pitches this time, a piccolo and Reich's own whistling punctuate the rhythms.
After this has run its course, beats begin to be taken away until there is a single beat left repeating itself.

This leads into the fourth and final part which is a mix of all the instruments heard in the previous three parts played all together (drums, marimbas, glockenspiels, voices, piccolo and whistles). As the glockenspeils repeat the single beats which ended part three, the marimbas join in on the same beat followed by the bongo drums. The music then builds up into its standard rhythm which in turn builds up to a dynamic and intense rhythmic climax. This brings "Drumming" to its final and exciting finish.

This original recording of Steve Reich's "Drumming" is a revelation compared to its Nonesuch Records counterpart. For all intents and purposes, this original recording is the definitive version. Although the music is uncomplicated and highly repetitive, it is not at all boring. Reich's use of rhythm and percussion on "Drumming" is still some his very best and influential. After many years of being out-of-print, it's great to have the original "Drumming" back on the shelves.

A Definite Must. Highly Recommended!!
Cornelius Cardew (Glockenspiel), James Preiss (Drums), Steve Reich (Drums), Steve Chambers (Drums), Timothy Ferchen (Marimba), Timothy Ferchen (Drums), Bob Becker (Marimba), Russ Hartenberger (Drums), Ben Harms (Marimba), Glen Velez (Marimba), Joan La Barbara (Voice), Jay Clayton (Voice), Leslie Scott (Flute), Leslie Scott (Piccolo), Glen Velez (Glockenspiel), Steve Chambers (Marimba), Bob Becker (Glockenspiel), Cornelius Cardew (Marimba), Russ Hartenberger (Marimba), Russ Hartenberger (Glockenspiel), Ben Harms (Glockenspiel), Steve Reich (Marimba), James Preiss (Glockenspiel), Bob Becker (Drums)
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