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.
(Read More)


No comments have been added yet

Add A Comment

You must be logged in to comment

  • On Replay
    On Replay

    Icarus Rises

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

    Rising imperiously from the waves, making jet-propelled dolphin jumps and backwards somersaults, professional stuntman Arran Topham appears as a waterborne Ironman in filmmaker Thomas Giddings’ new short, Icarus. Taking its name from the Greek myth of the child who flew too close to the sun and fell to a watery death, the film stars Topham—who has appeared in The Bourne Ultimatum, X-Men: First Class and the upcoming Bond movie Skyfall—performing delphine acrobatics made possible by the Flyboard. Invented by world champion jet-ski racer Franky Zapata, the luxurious high-tech toy is designed simply for pleasure, allowing anyone to connect with their inner Flipper. “I found out about this machine and flew to Marseilles, where Zapata is based, because I just thought it was so insane,” Giddings recounts. “It has this otherworldly quality; it’s blowing the boundaries between flying and swimming, and as soon as I saw it I wanted to capture it.” During monochrome downpours on the UK’s Dorset coast, the director filmed from a small boat through dusk and dawn to capture the overcast sci-fi footage. For his next project Giddings is journeying deeper into the hidden world of stuntmen, documenting their lives behind the Hollywood scenes for a solo exhibition and book to launch in London and Los Angeles next year.


    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.


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

    Flyboard cost

    Number of times Topham had flown the Flyboard before filming

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

    Safety team
    One local expert and two other stuntmen on jet skis.

    Liquid consumed on set

    Twelve hours of torrential rain.

    Time it took to recover
    Five days.
    (Read More)

    Ultraísta: Strange Formula

    David Lynch Remixes Radiohead Producer Nigel Godrich’s New Band

    Cinematic auteur and musician David Lynch adds an otherworldly lilt to electronic kraut-pop trio Ultraísta’s “Strange Formula,” taken from their forthcoming eponymous debut album and accompanied by their self-produced psychedelic video. Named after the Spanish ultraist literary movement, the band was formed by Radiohead’s producer and honorary “sixth member” Nigel Godrich with artist Laura Bettinson and multi-instrumentalist Joey Waronker, who has drummed and produced for the likes of Beck, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, Eels, and Paul McCartney. Also members of Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace project, Godrich and Waronker bonded over a mutual love of Afrobeat, dance music, visual art and tequila, inviting Bettinson to contribute vocals to their avant-garde hooks. Lynch’s remix follows offerings by Matthew Dear and Four Tet, with the latter’s take on debut single “Smalltalk” earning fervent praise in the music press. “People hear things differently and so to have something spat back at you through someone else's eyes is usually quite interesting,” notes Godrich. Stripping away the group’s usual popiness for his contribution, Lynch distorted Bettinson’s vocals into a languid drawl and blended the guitars and synths into an ominous storm of noise. “We're honored. He is a very interesting cat indeed,” offers Godrich of the Blue Velvet director’s contribution. “I personally had no preconceptions, but it makes sense knowing his persona. It's very visual.” 

    Ultraísta will perform at Lynch’s Parisian Club Silencio on Wednesday October 3.

    (Read More)

Previously In music

View Full music Archive