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The only good Steve Reich remix since "Little Fluffy Clouds".
June 24, 2014 4:14 PM   Subscribe

PianoPhase.com is a Web-based recreation/visualization of the first section of American "minimalist" composer Steve Reich's landmark piece, Piano Phase (1967). Created by interactive artist Alexander Chen.
In "Piano Phase", [Reich] has the two pianists begin by playing a rapid twelve-note melodic figure over and over again in unison (E4 F♯4 B4 C♯5 D5 F♯4 E4 C♯5 B4 F♯4 D5 C♯5). After a while, one of the pianists begins to play his part slightly faster than the other. When he is playing the second note of the figure at the same time the other pianist is playing the first note, the two pianists play at the same tempo again. They are therefore playing notes at exactly the same time, but they are not the same notes as they were at the start of the piece. The process is repeated, so that the second pianist plays the third note as the first pianist is playing the first, then the fourth, and so on until the process has gone full circle, and the two pianists are playing in perfect unison again." - Wikipedia
Here, the musical patterns are visualized by drawing two lines, one following each pianist. The sound is performed live in the browser with the Web Audio API, and drawn with HTML5 Canvas. [via]
posted by mykescipark (17 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Heh - if you go to a different tab, it stops and does a little Muppet Don Music bang or two.
posted by symbioid at 4:16 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Beautifully done. Nice to be completely entranced by a single web page for several minutes.
posted by iotic at 4:23 PM on June 24


Very nice. And, having not read all the details, I was shocked to see that the whole visualization was being done live rather than from video.
posted by rongorongo at 4:29 PM on June 24


It does a nice reset if you want to hear a particular section again - just click 'backwards' on the .clockface'.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 4:50 PM on June 24


It's lovely, but I can't help but feel this sort of clockwork automation robs these pieces of their performance magic. Isn't part of the point the irregularities and inaccuracies of the timing of real people trying to play very close but not in unison? I'm also reminded of In C, but that does have an explicit improvisation aspect to it.

Then again something like Reich's Come Out is purely automated and machine clockwork. I just always assumed he did a bit of both.
posted by Nelson at 4:56 PM on June 24


It's lovely, but I can't help but feel this sort of clockwork automation robs these pieces of their performance magic.

Well, yes. When I first saw the piece (I initially only saw the Vimeo preview), I thought UGH WHO CARES SEQUENCERS / DELAY PLUGINS. But that was before I realized it was a live site which explores the intersection of art and programming. I think it's a neat little thing, and it's a fun way to experience the piece in a different medium. I certainly wouldn't sit and listen to a Web Audio version on its own.
posted by mykescipark at 5:20 PM on June 24


real people trying to play very close but not in unison

Or one person
posted by statolith at 5:22 PM on June 24 [6 favorites]


good stuff
posted by exogenous at 5:34 PM on June 24


The song "Time Becomes" by Orbital did something similar. Although, they did it with bonus Worf.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:16 PM on June 24


The song "Time Becomes" by Orbital did something similar

"I suppose you go through phases. When you're younger, around that time you discover Steve Reich and that sort of thing, and you muck about with that." - Orbital interview, November 2012
posted by mykescipark at 6:26 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Awesome site. I continue to harken back to Reich's Music for a Large Ensemble / Sextet / Octet (Eight Lines); as well as the counterpoint series (Vermont / New York / Electric) phase (pardon the pun). Violin Phase is similarly hypnotic with, to me, a more enriching melodic tapestry.
posted by lonemantis at 6:42 PM on June 24


re: clockwork automation, if you are interested in the purely mechanical phenomenon of loops of sound falling out of phase with one another and want to play with it yourself, I have written a python script that does it with a user supplied .wav file. The code is crude but functional.
posted by curious.jp at 6:49 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I can't help but feel this sort of clockwork automation robs these pieces of their performance magic.

What about this sort of clockwork automation (Ligeti, Poème Symphonique For 100 Metronomes)?
 
posted by Herodios at 8:14 PM on June 24


oh hey, alex was in boy in static. i thought his style looked familiar. it's cool to be on the same label as the guy who did the google guitar doodle and this.
posted by sleepy pete at 12:22 AM on June 25


Is Reich the guy who did the peice with 4 (?) microphones swinging back and forth over 4 stationary upright speakers, so you would get 4 short "whoo"s of feedback as the mikes swung back and forth, and they are all released from different heights, so the feedbacks are all out of synch, and in the end all 4 mikes hang over the speakers, feeding back?

On the one hand I think this is awesome. On the other I think its bollocks.
posted by marienbad at 12:22 AM on June 25


marienbad: Yes, the composition is called Pendulum Music. You can see a scan of the score here.
posted by curious.jp at 4:00 AM on June 25


Amazing.

If you never seen the original choreography for Piano Phase, you ought to check it out.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:01 PM on June 25


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