Area of study 2.3 electric counterpoint

Area of study 2.3 electric counterpoint

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  • written in 1987
  • west coast American minimalism
    • artist were interested in new extreme techniques
    • uses repetition, drones and loops
    • one other minimalistic artist- terry Riley
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  • first guitar part has ostinato 1 that is displaced for the other parts.
  • live guitar builds up the song using fragments of the original ostinato
  • Resultant melody is formed from all the different ostinatos. 
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  • builds gradualy
  • the gradual introduction of the four guitar parts form a 4 part guitar canon
  • in the coda parts disappear so it returns to the canonic texture
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  • e minor or e aeolian mode- no d# and no perfect cadences
  • tonal ambiguity at the beginning
  • frequent key changes in section b between e and c minor
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  • simple but layered to form complex
  • the chords are simple and modal- they have no 'middle' to tell you if it is major or minor
  • static non-functional chords
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unusual- 9 pre-recorded guitars and 1 live

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Uses of technology

  • multi-tracked recording
  • as it is only 1 player all parts sound the same
  • panning (making different tracks louder)- used to balance the sounds
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  • section a
    • the bringing in and establishment of the cannon.
    • the resultant melody is formed
    • the chords are brought in
    • it begins to establish e minor feel
  • section b
    • continuation of full texture from section a
    • first key change to c minor
  • coda
    • the bass and chords disappear
    • various key shifts until finishes in e minor
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rhythm and metre

  • rhythmic development important- how the stress paterns change
  • changes in metre emphasises this in section b
  • rhythmic counterpoint- the parts are slightly out of sync
    • this is NOT phasing as they stay out of sync
  • bass ostinato establish rhythmic feel
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Other word and techniques in minimalism

  • layers
  • polyphonic texture
  • note addition and subtraction
  • rhythmic displacement
  • phasing

this is in case of those questions of:

'give two techniques commonly used in minimalism'

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Samuel Richardson


This is a nice introductory set of notes on Steve Reich's 'Electric Counterpoint'. Key terms are nicely noted in colour and features for all categories of analysis are included. 

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