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June 28, 2014

Techniques and Aesthetics of Process Music

To articulate the consideration of techniques and aesthetics of process music with the overall enrichment and renewal of knowledge of artistic creativity, this paper will discuss the genre of mechanical music and then shed light on the works of one of the greatest mechanical musicians Steve Reich to discuss the techniques and aesthetics of process music in his work. 
Since the earliest times, man has always tried to make music mechanically. Greeks and Romans built musical fountains with imitating birds. In 9th century in Baghdad, Arab scholars manage to play a flute with a cylinder lined with spikes. In 14th century the first chimes of cylinders equipped wisely pointed appeared, which in turn actuate hammers striking bells. Around 1850, a Lyonnais (Claude Felix Seytre), inspired by Jacquard punch cards used for weaving, one realizes for the first organette boxes pierced with holes, which gradually replace the cylinders.
In the late 19th and early 20th century saw an impressive number of mechanizing different musical instruments (pianos, violins, harps, banjos, harmoniums, reed organs, accordions, organs of living, street fair or dance, etc..), which take the air in fashion, using the same principle of cardboard strips or perforated paper, sometimes even from the actual recording of great artists (pianos breeders). These instruments are installed with great success in public places (cafes, dance halls, carnivals, etc.) and are often equipped with a coin for their initiation. At that time also appeared early phonograph recordings on cylinder first, then to disk (Thomson, 2000). During the period 1920-1939, the improvements of the electric phonograph, the radio broadcasts and popular new genres of music in the background relegate the mechanical musical instruments (Plantinga, 1984).
The first and most famous form of Mechanical musical style is rock 'n roll, which gives its spirit and musical means to all later forms: diverse and varied rock, pop, dance music, electronic music and more, with orchestral colours and different rhythmic according to period and / or cultural backgrounds affected by the phenomenon (reggae, zouk) and, recently, borrowing folk music (world music, Celtic music, etc..). Currently all forms of popular music or varieties were recast in this new cultural mould and borrow at least some of the characteristics of the rock.
Techniques and Aesthetics of Steve Reich’s Process Music
Steve Reich is one of the most renowned musicians of mechanical music genre. He was born in New York in 1936 (Potter, 2000). Throughout his youth, he developed a taste for popular music and loves music and great singers. He was interested in philosophy so he opened his mind to other sensitive or intellectual discoveries and thus comes to reconsider music until then hardly touched: The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky and Bach made on him a very strong impression and introduced him to another musical universe.
 It was during this period (1950-1951) as the young Steve Reich began attending jazz concerts in New York. Enthused by the music and especially the drummer Kenny Clarke (who frequently plays at Birdland), he decided to make the study of the battery and founded his first band jazz. He took lessons for three years with the young percussionist R. Kohloff and expanding its jazz band (from trio to quintet).
If T. Riley gave us the first examples of repetitive music, it is especially Reich to develop it more methodically, developing his music after an elementary but rigorous compositional technique. His taste for percussion instruments, and rhythm in general, as well as influences, he may have received from California, where the minimal music is booming, have obviously responsible for music created by Reich in the decade of 1960s (Salzman, 2002). The music band that performs from 1963 to 1964 is therefore important because it carried the seeds of what will eventually be Reich’s instrumental music.
As Young had noticed that two required sounds can never be merged perfectly, Reich notes, using two recorders simultaneously, their engines can never give the same speed. The small difference he sees made him to build parts operating on a similar principle. It's gonna rain  (1965), the first of his works, superimposed two tracks with the recorded patterns of the same length, copied many times but switched to slightly different speeds (Bernstein, 2008). The piece is composed of several sections in which Reich puts phase loops of varying lengths from the original fragment (looping "It's gonna rain "," It's gonna ", etc.).
Before the automation of such a process, some decisions were made. The most important for Reich is to choose the fragment and repeat. Reich presented a technique which was the most objective way, i.e. raw footage, whose emotional value is increased not only by repetition but also by the low interventions of the composer (Plantinga, 1984). This work finds its pictorial equivalent in some paintings of A. Warhol, his Orange Disaster (1963) consists of 15 prints (3 x 5) of the original image. Reproduction was entrusted to a printer, and only interventions by Warhol is the overall design of the project, the choice of photographed subject, the number of copies and the colour of the screen (in this case an orange monochrome).
However, as the Orange Disaster, Reich’s song - in addition to the connotation of the object presented - has a purely plastic and visual dimension, the phrase Black pastor in the song started new phase which is more than the literal meaning it keeps us throughout the song, becomes with rehearsals and the phase noise a simple event that the machine enhances the acoustic qualities (Bernstein, 2008).
After a second piece inspired by the same methods (Come Out - 1966), Reich decided to introduce a musical phrase that will serve as "raw material" to its phase shifts Tape. The work - Melodica (1966), follows exactly the same structural and Come out plane (length phases, rehearsals etc.). Reich still worked from the tape and leaves no room for a musician (Bernstein, 2008).
Although the early results of this experiment were not very encouraging but Reich gradually become able to control the increase in necessary tempo to shift. He realized that the role of tape against which he plays (repeats the same pattern to a steady tempo) may be taken by a musician, so he made, a beginning in 1967, i.e. a Piano version phase with his friend pianist A. Murphy. In this phase, he had introduced some "adjustments" that reinforced the effect of phase shift and allowed the player to have points of rhythmic marks (Donin, 2010).
The tape did not pose any problem about metronomic differences between the length of each loop and the natural angular frequency pattern or recording words, entrusting the instrumentalists phase shift requiring subsequent "Stepwise" sequence which is difficult to play very long in the tempi irrational relations. By cons, a very slow phase, as desired by Reich, is impossible to achieve as it only deals with 60 to play the black bear and listening to another tempi falls to 61 feat. Reich designed its instrumental phase shifts by successive acceleration: the first pianist installs the ostinato, the second returns "discreetly" (fade in) on the basis in the first pattern, and slightly increases the tempo until it is offset a note before (Reich says it has between 4 and 16 repetitions to do so), then it takes the initial tempo, making the confrontation between the two patterns more obvious and reinforces the impression of phase (Donin, 2010).
After some time (between 16 and 24 repeats), the second pianist renews the operation being shifted to a new note to the front and so on and so forth until they both return voices in unison (the second pianist would then gain a measure of the first). Once the cycle accomplished, the song does not stop there and musicians linked together directly on new cycles, built on grounds derived from the first (rhythmic contraction).
Violin Phase was also created in the same year, based on the same process. The work is a little more elaborate, although it was still based on quasi-mechanical process, but it ceased to be a simple trip to unison and relied on a new technical element from an observation of Reich’s own music. Reich had indeed noticed that when several reasons for same melodic tone are played polyphony and repeated long, they tend to saturate the "melodic" space and lose their individuality, leading the listener's ear to reconstruct in this "mess" sound on real or virtual grounds (Donin, 2010). These were the reasons which Reich called resulting patterns.
Violin Phase is a quartet for four violins, whose parts can either be played by several musicians, or by a single violinist who recorded previously on a multi-track the first 3 games and plays recorder - supported by the soundtrack - the fourth "live" (in the Reich score gives many indications to perform the work according to these two possibilities). The work was entirely built on a single melodic motif. It comprises five sections with the constant phase shift of one or two violins (one of the four does not move its ostinato and serves as a reference point) with the "Underscore" the resulting patterns by the fourth violin.
Starting from a general unison, phase-shift of violins 2 and 3 compared to violin 1: turn a white shifts forward, then the other two lead white, giving polyphony which looks like a perpetual stretto. Once the phase stabilized, rhythmic situation becomes clearer, but homogeneity of timbre and dynamics gives an extremely dense melodic texture which mainly emerges single notes by their range. Reich had also taken care to mark additional scope that has reduced the ostinato of three other parties. It serves as a kind of guide to the isolate eye and ear, note after note, resulting patterns. Reich noted some but he left it to the interpreter's discretion to choose freely, either by building using the scope-tank or guided by his hearing.
The Violin Phase (1967) measures 16 (repeat as long as the violin 4 works with its resulting and patterns). Reich says the first three parts (Violin 1, 2 and 3), the reasons resulting A, B, C (D being chosen by violinist) that the musician (Violin 4) brings the mp in strong, keeps a few moments before to decrease in intensity.
Scope "tank" / Resulting Patterns
This process, in its implementation but also in its intentions is to establish a drone from which each listener is invited to detect multiple frequencies that compose it, and thus, not the reasons-results (since the melody is absent here), but notes forming the drone. For Reich, the principle is the same although the initial set-sound is of melodic and rhythmic nature as an oboe would enrich texture doubling or tripling a note already held by other instruments, the fourth Violin phase is also underscore what is already present in the soundtrack.
After Violin Phase - Reich started focusing on a new technical component, which complemented the "toolbox" of composer two years later, once he has forsworn entrusting his electronics musical process (Mertens, 1983). Always from a mixture of empiricism, observation and reflection acquired on his own, he developed new musical vocabulary by adding the process of phase and the resulting and patterns of "increase" principle.
The "Increase" Principle
Slow Motion Sound (1967) was built around the first part of this principle. The idea is quite simple to gradually slow down the pre-recorded sound until the duration is equal to several times its original length, and without changing height or the stamp. Although the tape was unable to properly fulfil the requirements of Reich (a lower proportion of the tape slowed the pitch), he was inspired by this process of expansion, decided in 1968 to develop, under the guidance of electronics, a machine that can "zoom" artificially spaces between rating a pattern and thereby produce a melodic stretching (Reich & Hillier, 2002).
The Phase Shifting Pulse Gate - completed in 1969 – was closely related to our drum machines and current sequencers. It was used to each of the 12 continuous rhythmic sounds (electronic or natural sounds) injected into the apparatus. A clock with an adjustable speed (such as a metronome) sends a common pulse to 12 channels, each clock cycle is divided into 120 pulses. On each channel the "musician" active two settings: one for setting exactly the time of closure of the channel (the sound passes) and the other for determining the length of the PSPG. Thus, by adjusting the start and the closing of the first channel 1 (the first pulse clock), the second channel 11 (11th pulse), the third of 21 (21th pulse) and so on until the 12th channel (111th pulse), the debit PSPG 12 impeccably regular notes (to an extent 12/8) and resumes operation loop (120 to check the clock returns to 1), the same rhythm replaying configuration, unless it has been changed in the meantime (any setting change during the cycle (Reich & Hillier, 2002).
The main advantage offered by the "invention" of Reich lies in the rhythmic independence of sounds it produces. Unlike a recorded phrase which all components move in a single movement, it is possible to move each of the PSPG program element with high accuracy, and so perfectly independent. The machine can also produce perceptible rhythmic shifts or irrational combinations perfectly on time.
The main feature of the music process is not referring to anything other than itself. The components of the music is available to the listener and their mere presence - as pure sound events - are responsible for any intention whatsoever since they are the results of a process. Every musician obeys certain number of rules imposed by a style or technique. For Reich, any time of musical processes (an agreement to hold one, two phase shift patterns for the other) back permanently to the process that drives the work (Rockwell, 1983). This is why Reich compares the process to a mechanism that when put together, works alone, once the drone "started", there is nothing else to do than to let it ring (Reich & Hillier, 2002).
Reich states, however, that the wealth of his music is the fact that beyond the total control he exercises over the process is a hazard form capable of capturing the attention of the listener (Reich & Hillier, 2002). Reich had nothing to do with uncertainty and if the components involved in the rigorous process have nothing random, the "start" of the mechanism revealed, unexpected noise situations. This is somewhat equivalent to cluster or drone.
In general, the aesthetic premise of Reich remains to operate a minimum sound statement and the most of its resources, so there is the need to maintain the same, either by prolonging the sound or by constantly repeating the sound utterance to better notice the minute differences that affect permanently. In addition, these requirements allow the listener to appreciate the objectivity of the work, the more mechanism works on simple and obvious bases, the more he sees to deliver its single course.
All instrumental pieces composed by Reich are constructed – the start to finish - on a single mode, we note a clear preference for a defective mode commonly found in traditional music: Piano phase (Si), Violin Phase (In F #) Pulse Four log drums and music are all based on a minor mode whose characteristic is the absence of triton among its degrees (Donin, 2010). The same pattern phase is built on minor pentatonic mode (without 4te or 6xte). No combination of melodic pattern comes thus creating tension that can guide the ear, when this interval appears; the simple fact that it is embedded in a saturated harmonic environment, repeated constantly neutralizes its tonal function in favour of a clean colour mode in use.
Finally, the example of Pendulum music - including the "mode" is reduced to same frequency electronic whistling- enough to convince that the arrangement of heights is not in the context of this music process. Such an attitude that brought to an extreme degree found in Reich's use of elementary modality seems to be guided by the desire to see his interest in rhythmic development. Moreover, it is clear that the repetition, as Reich practice can only combine the rhythmic intervals (recovery action-patterns) with harmonic stasis (rhythm and height being musically inseparable).
Apart from the attempts of integral serialism, it is rare that the composer of Twentieth century manages to bring all sound settings to the same degree of complexity. The Annex role Reich attributed to harmony is easy to understand because he is primarily a percussionist. His lean pianistic skills and a relative disinterest in his studies for harmonic problems, earned him an approach to the study of music primarily as a rhythmic and structural angle. His interest for processes of imitation or the techniques of counterpoint (reduction-increase) is that each voice has, in the contrapuntal language, has an identity and a strong rhythmic individuality, which is obviously not reflected in accompanied melody, where voice, playing in homo-rhythmic, serves only the harmonic rhythm.

Reich actually benefits our perceptual weaknesses to mitigate any automation effect, in any case the composition, instead of taking the form of a general and systematic linear slowdown, breaks the effect by introducing changes which, by dint of accumulations, transform sound statement unexpectedly and yet consistently.


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