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Electric Counterpoint - Steve Reich - GCSE Revision Notes

A GCSE Analysis of Electric Counterpoint, by Steve Reich. Hopefully it will help people with their GCSE Music revision; if you find it helpful, give it a like! Visit http://adf.ly/1018942/electriccounterpoint---youtube to view the Prezi on YouTube!

Thomas Storey

on 28 December 2013

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Transcript of Electric Counterpoint - Steve Reich - GCSE Revision Notes

Electric Counterpoint is made up riffs (short patterns) that are repeated lots of times. A repeated pattern is called an ostinato.
The timbre remains the same all of the way through the piece, because it only uses guitars and basses, which all have a similar sound.
Each part on the score is pre-recorded onto a tape/computer loop. These parts are recorded on top of one another using multi-tracking in a studio to build up the layers.
The musician then plays the live part over the top of the recording. The piece includes 7 electric guitars, 2 electric bass guitars and a solo guitarist.
The solo guitarist plays live, along with a multi-track recording of the other instruments, which were pre-recorded by the musician.
Electric Counterpoint is 140 bars long and lasts about 4 and a half minutes.
The time signature of the piece is 3/2 (three minim beats per bar), but at some points, parts including the live guitar play in 12/8 while others stay in 3/2. The parts still fit together because both time signatures can be divided into 12 quavers per bar. Song/Artist Background - Steve Reich was born in New York
in 1936.
- He had piano lessons when he was
young, and started learning the
drums at 14.
- He was influenced by jazz and non-
Western ideas, like African drumming.
- In the 1960's, Reich began writing minimalist
- Electric Counterpoint has 3 movements; it is
the 3rd movement that is in the GCSE
exams. The music is repetitive - the same loops are repeated in the ensemble parts, which makes the music sound hypnotic.
Four of the pre-recorded guitar parts play the same riff throughout the piece. One guitar starts of playing alone, then the other guitars enter one by one.
They all play the riff at different times - they're in canon (like a round).
When it first enters, guitar 3's part is built up using a technique called note addition (or additive melody). It starts playing just a few notes of the riff, then two or three notes are added each time it's played until the whole riff is heard. This can be heard in bars 10-15. As well as the canonic one-bar riff, Reich builds another canon between the solo part and the three other pre-recorded guitars (This starts at bar 36). They play a repeated strummed chord sequence.
The texture is polyphonic (two or more independent melodies being played at the same time).
The parts fit together harmonically. The two canons going on at the same time make the polyphony more complex and interesting.
The counterpoint is obvious in the sections where some parts are playing in 3/2 and others in 12/8 (for instance bars 82-85). One canon is being played with three (minim) beats in a bar, and the other with four (dotted crotchet) beats in a bar. The piece alternates between E minor and C minor. The first modulation (key change) occurs at about halfway through the piece (at bar 74), but there are another 13 modulations before the piece ends.
The key changes happen more frequently as the piece builds up - some only last for two or three bars.
The harmony is quite static (the chords don't change very often).
Changes in the time signature from 3/2 to 12/8 in the solo and bass parts happen more frequently towards the end of the piece.
There are lots of changes in dynamics (mainly the solo part), which fades in and out during the piece.
The four pre-recorded parts stay at a constant mf throughout, but the other parts have diminuendos. It finished with a fortissimo climaz from the solo part. By ThomasRStorey Electric Counterpoint - Steve Reich
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