Reich: Drumming – Colin Currie Group with Synergy Vocals – Colin Currie Records 

by | Mar 29, 2018 | Classical CD Reviews

Steve Reich’s monumental composition in good sound and a solid performance.

Reich: Drumming – Colin Currie Group with Synergy Vocals – Colin Currie Records CD CCR001 TT: 56:00 (3/8/18) *** 1/2

This was Steve Reich’s breakthrough masterpiece, inspired by his studies of African drumming in the 1970s. There have been many recordings of this work, and it’s often performed in concert.

Listening to Drumming can be quite hypnotic. When the music stops, it’s often a jolt of silence that leaves one surprised. The work is of indefinite length, allowing the performers to decide how much to repeat. The performance on this disc with all 4 parts played runs just under an hour.

Instrumentation varies in each part per Reich’s design:

Part One: 4 pairs of tuned bongo drums, played with double-ended wooden sticks (and one male voice, according to the original score)

Part Two: 3 marimbas, 2 or 3 female voices

Part Three: 3 glockenspiels, whistler, and piccolo

Part Four: complete ensemble

The Colin Currie Group was formed in 2006 for a performance at the BBC Proms celebrating the 70th birthday of Steve Reich, the group specializes in the American composer’s work. This recording was made possible by a crowd-funding campaign—which Reich enthusiastically endorsed—saying, ”It will be, I am sure, the best recording of Drumming ever made!”

Well, it’s certainly a good one. Reich’s music is not for everyone, but explorers of contemporary music will likely be pleased and fascinated. This piece is a difficult challenge for the best of musicians, and the Colin Currie group does just fine.

The recording is a good one, with a nice stereo image in stereo. I think the album is helped by opening it up to multi-channel using Dolby Pro-Logic or some other similar conversion.

I was surprised this was not offered in high resolution on disc, or discreet multi-channel, but I can’t really fault the standard CD release.

Steve Reich has been an important influence in modern music, and this is one of Reich’s most interesting and influential works.

—Mel Martin

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