Steve Reich’s ‘Piano Phase’ On Modular Synthesizer


This video, by glkibler, captures a modular synthesizer arrangement of Steve Reich’s Piano Phase (1967).

Here’s what they have to say about it:

“My modular interpretation of Steve Reich’s 1967 landmark piece, originally composed for piano and tape machine. I’ve shortened the typical 15 minute duration with a version that is about a third as long by speeding up the phase a bit.

The 5U modulars I’m using here are two prototypes I hand-built in 2014 using mainly Yves Usson’s (Yusynth) circuit designs – ones, I might add, that I painstakingly transcribed from his original printed circuit designs to my own veroboard layouts. These were originally housed in cheap Ikea bookshelves, but last year I broke down and bought two very nice-looking cabinets, though I retained my own power supplies.

The two 960 sequencers above are simply Behringer 960s I had re-housed inside full-size matching panels and cabinets.

I am using Ableton to supply the MIDI that shifts the phase and it is what is driving the two modulars. Each modular has its own built-in sequencer, though, and while I have done a version of this piece using those, the results are too variable since I’m basically setting the speed of the two by ear.

The MIDI visual that shows intermittently here is some freeware called MAMPlayer (Music Animation Machine MIDI Player).”

The music of Steve Reich has been extremely influential on electronic musicians, especially his 1976 composition Music for 18 Musicians.

Piano Phase is an example of Reich’s concept of Music as a Gradual Process:

“The distinctive thing about musical processes is that they determine all the note-to-note
details and the over all form simultaneously. One can’t improvise in a musical process–
the concepts are mutually exclusive.

While performing and listening to gradual musical processes one can participate in a
particular liberating and impersonal kind of ritual. Focusing in on the musical process
makes possible that shift of attention away from he and she and you and me outwards
towards it.”


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