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Arts & Culture
The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world. To listen to KPAC 88.3 FM, simply open the player in the gray ribbon at the top of this page and choose KPAC: Classical Music.

Radiohead Gets Rewritten By Reich

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Nonesuch Records
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Radiohead and Steve Reich get mashed up on “Radio Rewrite,” an album that features two new recordings of Reich’s ear-tickling “Counterpoint” music, as well as a five-part chamber work inspired by two of Radiohead’s songs. The oldest music on this disc was first heard four decades ago, but Reich’s music—especially his works for smaller ensembles and solo performers—still sounds modern, exciting, and fun.

The album opens with “Electric Counterpoint,” first premiered by Pat Metheny in 1987. Metheny played an Ibanez wide-bodied electric, bringing his signature sound to the music, which alternately pulses and dances. In recent performances posted online, Jonny Greenwood uses a Les Paul and opts for a more cutting timbre. Metheny’s performance delicately shimmers; Greenwood shines hot and bright. On this album, you can hear the guitar pick as it strikes every note, helping to reveal more of the structure of Reich’s hypnotic music.

“Piano Counterpoint” is a 2011 arrangement of Reich’s piece “Six Pianos.” Like its electric cousin, “Piano Counterpoint” is constructed on record by having the performer pre-tape several tracks of music, performing the final part live while the pre-recorded tape plays. And like this new recording of “Electric Counterpoint,” the new piano arrangement of “Six Pianos” allows Vicky Chow to illuminate the individual lines of the 14-minute work. A rhythmic pulse serves as a bed for Chow’s short, stabbing phrases, which shoot out into the air before all six lines converge for sudden finale that's typical of 1970s minimalism.

Reich’s new five-part work on this disc is called “Radio Rewrite.” The composer sounds freshly inspired by two of Radiohead’s songs, “Everything in Its Right Place” and “Jigsaw Falling into Place.” The former informs the three fast sections of the piece, and if you’re familiar with the song, you can hear the basic chord structure and melody of Radiohead’s music in “Radio Rewrite,” even as Reich has created something wholly new. “Radio Rewrite” is performed by the New York-based chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound, who bring an urgent energy to the music. From start to finish, the whole album provides plenty of head-turning sounds.