It’s hardly surprising that the Barbican dedicated two whole days to celebrate the work of composer Steve Reich, who turns 75 this year. After all, as a spearhead for the minimalist movement, he provides a key link between the classical and contemporary music worlds; seminal pieces like ‘Drumming’ highlight the parallels between Western classical music and modern genres such as techno, and his process of looping instruments, resulting in sounds phasing in and out of time, has influenced the electronic experiments of Radiohead, The Orb and Brian Eno.

It’s nigh on impossible to imagine another composer who could bring together the very different worlds of Trent Reznor, Kronos Quartet, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Tyondai Jackson and Owen Pallett, the latter performing his latest album Heartland in its entirety with the Britten Sinfonia. The Canadian singer’s falsetto depicts the curious character of an ultra-violent farmer named Lewis amidst clattering orchestral arrangements compounded by electronic designs; though not directly influenced by Reich, classically trained Pallett loops and samples his violin on stage to create dense layers of sound, something which unfortunately has the tendency to drown out his vocals within the Barbican’s auditorium walls.

Other performances on the second day see Bang on a Can member Julia Wolfe’s dramatic, minimalist string piece ‘Cruel Sister’ performed by the Britten Sinfonia and Reich’s Pulitzer-prize winning ‘Double Sextet’ executed by Bang on a Can and original commissioners eighth blackbird, pitting violin, cello, vibraphone and not one but two pianos against each other in a striking battle of rhythms. Interspersed between these acts were excerpts from the hypnotic, African-inspired ‘Drumming’, played in the foyer by So Percussion. Sessions frequently overran, but no less could be expected from an event commemorating one of music’s most influential figures of the last 40 years.

Photo of Owen Pallett by Mark Allan.

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