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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Truly Minimal MP3

Steve Reich, the minimalist composer, has his own website, at stevereich.com. And since the website’s launch, it has featured, on its multimedia page, a single MP3. It’s no meager offering. It’s a live recording of the world premiere, from April 24, 1976, of his Music for 18 Musicians. Not the entire piece, mind you, but a good stretch, just over 12 minutes in length. The file has been compressed to the lo-fidelity rate of 64kbps (most people rip their MP3s at a minimum of twice that level), so it is less than six megabytes large. This is the sort of sound that makes audiophiles take to the streets wearing nothing but noise-reduction headphones and “The End Is Nigh” sandwich boards. Still, the track is more than clear enough for listeners to appreciate the work’s effervescent grid of beading counterpoint. And it’s in stereo. The file may even have its own unique pleasures; fans of the muted sounds of minimal techno and deep house will probably feel right at home. Here’s to hoping that if more people download the Music for 18 Musicians MP3, the Reich site will post some additional sound clips. Currently featured on the site is extensive information on Reich’s most recent CD/DVD, the technologically themed Three Tales, including an overview of the work, interviews, performance dates and its complete libretto, among whose “characters” are such Internet Age luminaries as Jaron Lanier, who coined the term “virtual reality”; Ray Kurzweil, synthesizer-maker and futurist; and Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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