As my brother and I were searching through some random piles of old records at the legendary flea market in Yaffo, Tel Aviv, my brother picked up this record, encouraging me to buy it. It turned out to be the first publication of the early Steve Reich piece ‘Come Out’ from 1966, along with pieces by Richard Maxfield and Pauline Oliveros. ‘Come Out’ is a interesting and beautiful piece of minimalist music, exploring different acoustic fields of the human voice and challenging our listening. Reich’s mechanical phasingmanipulation and the aural qualities of the recorded voice, are used to traverse the acoustic phenomena in the piece. Starting off as a clear looped taperecording, ending in an abstract cloud of reverberation. Nevertheless, we find a different kind of value when taking the time to understand the social and political circumstances of the piece. I’ve borrowed the following text from the back of the record:
“Come Out was composed as a part of a benefit, presented at Town Hall in April, 1966, for the retrial, with lawyers of their own choosing, of the six boys arrested for murder during the Harlem riots of 1964. The voice is that of Danniel Hamm, then nineteen, describing a beating he took in the Harlem 28th precinct. The police were about to take the boys out to be ‘cleaned up’ and were only taking those that were visibly bleeding. Since Hamm had no actual open bleeding, he proceeded to squeeze open a bruise on his leg so that he would be taken to the hospital ‘I had to, like, open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them”.
‘Come Out’ was performed at the benefit concert, that raised money for the retrail. The boys were eventually acquitted. On the back of the cover, Reich’s programnotes continue:
The phrase ’come out to show them’ was recorded on both channels, first in unison and then with channel 2 slowly beginning to move ahead. As the phase begins to shift, a gradually increasing reverberation is heard which slowly passes into a sort of cannon or round. Eventually the two voices divided into four and then into eight.
By restricting oneself to a small amount of material organized by a single uninterrupted process, one’s attention can become focused on details that usually slip by. A single repeated and gradually changing figure may well be heard as a composite of several figures. Finally, at any given moment, it is open to the listener as to which pattern within the pattern he hears.”
Needless to say, this piece should be heard in its entirety, from beginning to end. ‘Come Out’ is an excellent pioneering piece of ‘process music’ that though clarity and simplicity, challenges the idea of rhythmic and aural complexity. To some, an immersive listening experience is moving, relaxing and to others traumatizing and disturbing. Brian Eno very cleverly noticed, that Reich’s structural tape pieces “…take advantage of the fact, that your brain is very creative. Sort of transferring the job of being the composer into the brain of the listener.”
Post by Natal Zaks, natalzaks.com