Steve Reich: Radio Rewrite

An Audio-Visual Look at the Composer’s Radiohead-Infused Tour de Force

Steve Reich listens on at a London Sinfonietta rehearsal for his latest work, “Radio Rewrite,” snapped by photographer Thomas Giddings and accompanied by an exclusive audio clip. America’s famed sonic pointillist directed the ensemble he describes as Britain’s “national treasure” at a 4,000-square foot converted Victorian warehouse near London’s Royal Festival Hall, where the piece had its world premiere just this week. The New Yorker critic Alex Ross deemed Reich responsible for “the last great musical scandal of the 20th century” after conservative members of the Carnegie Hall audience walked out on a 1973 performance of “Four Organs,” but the one-time enfant terrible has since influenced everyone from Brian Eno to Owen Pallett with compositions informed by the constant motion of his native Manhattan. After Radiohead’s lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood performed a rendition of Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint” in Krakow in 2011, the composer reached out to the British rock phenomenon, whose tracks “Everything in Its Right Place” (2000) and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” (2007) provided him with a musical starting point. “It was done entirely intuitively, just by listening to a number of things on their website,” the 76-year-old master says of his song selection. “I just went with it.” Scroll through to the last image in today's slideshow to listen to a three-minute excerpt of the rehearsal of Reich’s affecting new piece.

How faithful have you kept to the original Radiohead tracks?
Steve Reich: With “Everything in Its Right Place” you will recognize the world of the song, just because of the tempo and the darkness and the mood. But the harmony is avoided or manipulated to stay away from what they did—because the order of their harmonies is so powerful that if you quote that, it’s all over.

Did you take their lyrics into account as well as their music?
SR: Well one word in particular, yes: “Everything.” It’s funny, it’s very appropriate to the notes involved. I have pointed this out a million times but is impossible to get away from: (singing) Ev-ery-thing, dah dah da. One five one—that’s the ending of every Beethoven symphony. It’s the history of Western music.
 
Is there more of a crossover between rock and classical music these days?
SR: Jonny Greenwood is an example of a musician who has been to a conservatory, who can read and write music of his own, who loves rock ‘n’ roll and plays it superbly well. This is a relatively new phenomenon. Not some A&R guy deciding he is going to have a crossover record, but musicians of their own volition, doing what they want to do. Today people who have been to school don’t have to love only Beethoven—they can love Radiohead too, and they do.

Reich and the London Sinfonietta play in Brighton this evening and Glasgow on Saturday. The American premiere of “Radio Rewrite” will be performed by Alarm Will Sound at the Stanford Live performing arts space in Palo Alto, California on March 16.
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    Icarus Rises

    Water Powered Jetpack Turns Man into Sea Monster in Thomas Giddings' Futuristic Short

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    STATS FROM ON SET

    Location
    Poole harbor, Dorset.

    Distance to the Sea of Crete where, according to Greek myth, Icarus drowned 
    2,318 miles.

    Highest altitude reached
    Eight meters.

    Minimum depth of water required to operate
    2.5 meters.

    Highest velocity in the air/underwater
    Ten knots/4 knots.

    Horsepower
    300.

    Volume of water ejected by Flyboard
    1,000 liters a minute.

    Flyboard cost
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    Number of times Topham had flown the Flyboard before filming
    Three.

    Number of times Tophan had to be pulled out of the water
    Two.

    Safety team
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    Liquid consumed on set
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    Climate
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    Time it took to recover
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