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Violin Phase - Steve Reich

In this film version of Violin Phase, London Sinfonietta Principal Violin Jonathan Morton performs all the parts.

It is the most satisfactory version that I’ve ever heard and seen Steve Reich, 2021

Steve Reich  Violin Phase (1967) 

Jonathan Morton  violin 

In this film version of Violin Phase, London Sinfonietta Principal Violin Jonathan Morton performs all the parts - the white shirted Jonathan being the part that is normally played live against the pre-recorded tape pars which are themselves represented by Jonathan in the black shirt. The moments of violin phasing are marked by the chromatic colour-field around the musician.

The composer explains in his programme note: 

“Late in 1967 I became clearly aware of the many melodic patterns resulting from the combination of two or more identical instruments playing the same repeating pattern one or more beats out of phase with each other. 

As one listens to the repetition of the several violins in Violin Phase, one may hear first the lower tones forming one or several patterns, then the higher notes are noticed forming another, then the notes in the middle may attach themselves to the lower tones to form still another. All these patterns are really there; they are created by the interlocking of two, three, or four violins all playing the same repeating pattern out of phase with each other. Since it is the attention of the listener that will largely determine which particular resulting pattern he or she will hear at any one moment, these patterns can be understood as psychoacoustic by-products of the repetition and phase-shifting. When I say there is more in my music than what I put there, I primarily mean these resulting patterns. 

Some of these resulting patterns are more noticeable than others, or become noticeable once they are pointed out. This pointing-out process is accomplished musically by doubling one of these preexistent patterns with the same instrument. The pattern is played very softly, and then gradually the volume is increased so that is slowly rises to the surface of the music and then, by lowering the volume, gradually sinks back into the overall texture while remaining audible. The listener thus becomes aware of one pattern in the music that may open his ear to another, and another, all sounding simultaneously in the ongoing overall texture.” Steve Reich 

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This project is produced with the friendly support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation
The London Sinfonietta is grateful to Arts Council England for its generous support of the ensemble, as well as the many other individuals, trusts and businesses who enable us to realise our ambitions.

Published: 13 Jul 2022