Western’s Music Department will showcase one of the most influential pieces of music of the past 50 years, “Music for 18 Musicians,” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 in the Performing Arts Center’s Concert Hall.
The performance is free and open to the public.
Written by American composer Steve Reich in 1976, this piece features four pianos, four singers, three marimbas, two xylophones, two clarinets, two strings and a vibraphone, all coming together to play the same piece, seamlessly transitioning through an hour-long, 11-chord progression, that has come to epitomize American Minimalist music.
“It’s unique for these students to do a piece like this, that is rarely performed because it’s such a big production with four pianos and so many instruments,” co-director Patrick Roulet said.
When starting this project at the beginning of the quarter, director Ryan Dudenbostel told the students that this would be doing something that would take a lot of work, but be an unforgettable performance.
“When you are in your 30s and 40s you will have had five or so big musical experiences that will stick with you, that you’ll remember, and this is going to be one of them,” Dudenbostel said.
Junior Peter Bryson said he was shocked and surprised when he was handed the sheet music for the piece at the beginning of the quarter.
“This is one of my favorite pieces of all time. I’m a huge Steve Reich fan and I’ve been listening to this piece for a long time, so when I was handed this music in class, it was a pretty crazy feeling,” Bryson said.
“Music for 18 Musicians” is a physically demanding piece lasting just over an hour. For the audience it is a rhythmic wave of sound that they can get lost in as it washes over them, but for the performers it can be hypnotic, which makes staying focused for its entirety a huge challenge.
“It’s one of the most difficult pieces I’ve ever engaged with from a physical standpoint, and a concentration standpoint,” Dudenbostel said.
For this piece, Dudenbostel and Roulet will not be standing in front of their students, they will be playing alongside them. Roulet will be with the percussion and Dudenbostel with the pianos. Learning individual parts while trying to organize the group is a new experience for them both, but one they and their students are glad to be taking part in.
“These performers are some of the top musicians at our school, and it is a really unique opportunity to get to play with them and with the professors I’ve admired for a while. To see them do what they do is really great,” sophomore Olivia Pedroza said.
“This is one of the cornerstones of the last 50 years of music and probably will not be played in Bellingham again anytime in the near future,” Dudenbostel said.