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

Steve Reich Remix Awards: And the Waveform Is …

The winners of the Steve Reich remix contest were announced earlier today. It’s a lot of music to sort through, but for starters, a hypothesis, and a resulting observation.

Participants in the contest, in the true spirit of online collaboration and open-source music-making, were provided (for free — no pay-to-play here) the raw materials, the stems as they’re called, of the piece “2×5,” a kind of post-rock bit of chamber music newly composed by Reich. They then set to work, beat-battle style, to see who could make something interesting enough out of original to impress the composer himself. (The other judge was Christian Carey, a member of the composition faculty at the Westminster Choir College.)

This is Steve Reich we’re discussing, the minimalist most comfortable with, most at home amid, uniformity and repetition, as well as with the subtle shifts that evidence themselves therein. So, since the audio player of the service that hosted the contest, indabamusic.com, includes waveforms, the question that suggest itself is: How do the waveforms of winners compare and contrast with those of the losers? Or, in this case, not the losers, but the honorable mentions.

These first three waveforms are of the top three placing entries:

And these are the ten honorable mentions:

It seems fair to say that the three that won show considerably less internal variety than do the ones that they bested, at least in the manner this waveform algorithm indicates. Of course, these are just 10 out the numerous ones that were actually submitted, so this is not exactly a scientific investigation. There may be, for all I know, one among them that looks like a solid block.

If you want to give those remixes singled out by Reich himself a listen, here they are, starting with the winner, credited to Dominique Leone:

 

More on the contest at nonesuch.com.

My interview with Reich, and some of the contributing musicians, on the occasion of his 1999 Reich Remixed album here: “The Public Record.”

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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