More austere than 18 musicians and much more elaborate than Its gonna rain or drumming, this piece makes me dizzy - a shimmering, slowly shifting kaleidoscope of beautiful sounds.
Whats interesting about Reich's work is that it presents us with dichotomies. On one hand the harmonies are very simple but lush, sustained for very long lengths of time - simultaneously rich and austere (sweet pentatonics and open fifths) and then on the other we have a radically complex set of patterns repeating short simple phrases. How many instruments are playing? how many things are going on? Like other works by Reich, the music gives the listener so many points of focus that one can continually and actively listen, yet at the same time get enveloped in these massive consonances.. preventing a sense of uninteresting monotony that other minimalist works often amount to.
But this music also takes a different kind of listening. If you listen to this piece as one big block of sound it could easily become tedious, but if you listen to all the parts going on, their slow evolution, you cant be bored. You are constantly shifting your attention from the xylophones to the voice that fades in and out, to the organ and back to the shimmering glockenspiels, and so on and so forth, so you get that sense of dizziness i was talking about.
I certainly hear the influence of gamelan in this. This is gorgeous and haunting stuff.