Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich Notes

A mind map with key points to remember for the GCSE music exam and some examples.

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  • Electric Counterpoint 1987
    • Rhythm and Metre
      • The metre is 3/2 but the live guitar occasionally plays in 12/8
        • These signatures fit together because they are booth divisible into 12 quavers a bar
    • Timbre
      • 7 electric guitars, 2 electric bass guitars and a solo guitar part
      • Solo guitarist plays live over pre-recorded tracks
    • Pitch harmony
      • Made up of layering patterns on top of each other
      • Overall harmony takes a long time to change
      • Harmony is quite static as the chords don't change that often
      • Keys: E minor and C minor. First modulation around halfway through the piece then it becomes more frequent.
    • Pitch melody
      • Guitar three's introductory part is built up using note addition
      • Four of the ensemble parts play the same riff throughout.
      • Hypnotic due to the repeating loops
      • Made up of ostinatos
    • Texture
      • Polyphonic (two or more independent parts playing at the same time.
      • Obvious conterpoint in bars 82-85 where the live guitar plays in 12/8 and the ensemble parts remain in 3/2
      • Playing in canon make the polyphony interesting
    • Dynamics
      • Lots of changes - mainly for the solo part that  fades in and out
      • Four ensemble parts playing the first riff stay at a constant mezzo forte (moderately loud). The other parts have some diminuendos.
      • The piece ends with the solo part playing in fortisimo (very loud)
    • Structure
      • Binary form
        • Section A: parts gradually added, Eminor key
        • Section B: all parts playing together then begin to drop out, key changes from Eminor to C and back a few times
    • Technological effects
      • The live guitarist plays along with a multi-track recording of the ensemble parts
      • Looping is used to build up layers
      • Each part is recorded then overdubbed using multi-tracking in a studio


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