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Reich/Richter is Steve Reich’s latest work for large ensemble, which he composed for a film by renowned painter Gerhard Richter and filmmaker Corinna Belz. It debuts on April 6–June 2, 2019, at The Shed, New York City’s new arts center, performed live by Ensemble Signal and the International Contemporary Ensemble, in alternation.

Steve Reich’s latest work for large ensemble, Reich/Richter, receives its world premiere on Saturday, April 6 at 1 PM, as part of opening commissions that launch The Shed, New York City’s new arts center located on Manhattan’s west side. The new work is performed live in The Shed’s Level 2 Gallery alongside a film by celebrated German painter Gerhard Richter, created in collaboration with filmmaker Corinna Belz. The cross-genre project explores the shared sensory language of visual art and music by aligning Reich’s rigorous, repeating musical structures with Richter’s systematic Patterns series.

The new film is based on Richter’s 2012 Patterns book, where the artist started with an abstract painting from 1990. Using a computer image of the painting, he divided it vertically into two halves and then divided those halves into quarters, making a mirror image of two of the quarters. He then divided the painting into fourths, eighths, 16ths, and so on, up to 4096ths. Each step follows the exact same procedure of divide, mirror, and repeat. The result is an abstract image that becomes a series of increasingly dense patterns, and eventually solid bands of colors.

The film reverses the order of the book (starting with solid bands of colors and moving to the abstract painting). Reich describes his approach to composing music that reflects the visual transformation in the film:

“When the film begins with the 2-pixel stripes, the music starts with a two–16th note oscillating pattern. When the film goes to four pixels, the music moves onto a four–16th note pattern, then to eight, and 16. After that, I began to think, this is going to get ridiculous, so at that point, I began introducing longer note values—initially eighth notes, and later as the pixel count grew in the film, to quarter notes. By the middle of the film, when the images move from 512 to 1064 pixels and the images becomes larger and more “creature” like, the music really slows. Later, as the pixel count begins to diminish, the music moves back into more rapid eighths and then 16ths, ending with the most intense rapid movement.”

Read Boosey’s interview with Steve Reich here.

Reich also explains how Reich/Richter, written for a large ensemble of 14 players, picks up where his recent works Runner and Music for Ensemble and Orchestra (which premiered in November 2018 with the LA Phil and Susanna Malkki) left off:

"[Runner and Music for Ensemble and Orchestra] end with an oscillation between two gradually changing notes played by almost all the instruments. I felt that I wanted to begin a piece with that oscillation, and here the film began with 2 pixels. It was a perfect way to move from the end of my just-completed pieces to the beginning of this project. The structure of the music would be tied to the structure of the film."

Reich/Richter will be performed four times a day, six days a week, between April 6 and June 2, for a total of 200 showings. This extraordinary feat of live performance will be taken on by Reich champions Ensemble Signal and the International Contemporary Ensemble—the two ensembles will perform in alternating blocks during the two months.

Reich/Richter is presented as part of The Shed’s opening season commission Reich Richter Pärt. The collaboration between Reich and Richter is presented in the same gallery alongside a collaboration between Gerhard Richter and composer Arvo Pärt, performed by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Brooklyn Youth Chorus. After experiencing the Richter and Pärt collaboration (a concept originally developed by The Shed’s artistic director Alex Poots and senior program adviser Hans Ulrich Obrist), audience members advance into an adjoining chamber to experience the work of Reich and Richter. Combined, the exhibition lasts approximately 80 minutes (Reich/Richter lasts approximately 37 minutes) during which time audiences are free to walk around.

The Reich/Richter composition and film were commissioned by The Shed as part of Reich Richter Pärt, and co-commissioned for a concert setting by The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Gustavo Dudamel, Music & Artistic Director; Cal Performances, University of California, Berkeley; Barbican Centre and Britten Sinfonia; Philharmonie de Paris; and Oslo Philharmonic.

LOOKING AHEAD: Next season, Reich/Richter will be performed at The Barbican with the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Colin Currie (Oct 23, 2019), at the Philharmonie de Paris with Ensemble intercontemporain conducted by Elim Chan (Mar 7, 2020), and with the LA Phil New Music Group conducted by Brad Lubman (Jun 6, 2020). Additional performances will be announced in the near future.

Photo: © Gerhard Richter 2018 (28112018).jpg

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