The latest album of composer Steve Reich’s work probably won’t convert conservatives to his brand of minimalism, but it illustrates his penchant for maximizing melody as well as the advantages of employing technology to widen the instrumental palette. The Kronos Quartet executes the title piece with the help of multi-tracking. Parts two and three of the Triple Quartet were recorded first, so as to give the effect of eight strings playing simultaneously. Then Kronos played part one along with the tape, which functions as the dominant, more expressive section of the piece, layering longer melodies over a weave of interlocking chords and counterpoint lines. The result is a swirl of sound that intoxicates yet has enough clarity to let all the melodies emerge. When sections change, that clarity makes the shifts in Reich’s composition all the bolder.
Dominic Frasca performed all four guitar parts in "Electric Guitar Phase" by overdubbing. Here, the melodies are denser. The first two guitars begin in unison, but the second gradually speeds up until it is one eighth-note ahead of the first. The third and fourth parts do the same. So as the patterns they’re playing shift in and out of phase, interesting overtones blend and melodies emerge, only to be pulled back into the broiling rhythms created by the overlapping lines.
The emergence and submergence of melodies is also a key part of Music for Large Ensemble, which features the new-music groups Ossia and Alarm Will Sound. But here harmonies dominate, with the brighter colors of chimes, wind instruments, strings, and horns joining to create lulling clouds of soft upper-register sounds. And Mika Yoshida solves the problem other percussionists have had in rearranging Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint for xylophones and marimbas. By using samples of both instruments triggered by a MIDI controller, he blunts the decay of their notes and keeps the speedy, Eastern-influenced melodies from being obscured by hanging overtones. The voices of both instruments together create a comic effect; yet as with the rest of these pieces, it’s a reminder that rock wasn’t the only music affected by the psychedelic era.