Steve Reich – Piano Phase On Groovesizer

Sunday Synth Jam: This video captures a Groovesizer performance by MoShang of Steve Reich’s Piano Phase.

Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategy, “Repetition is a form of change”, seems apt to describe the more minimal work of Steve Reich, like Piano Phase. The piece explores the sonic possibilities of playing a short sequence against itself in two voices. 

Here’s what MoShang has to say about the performance:

I was introduced to the piece in music class in a high school in Germany as an exchange student in 1991 and had heard nothing like it before. Over the years as I’ve been making with computers, the piece has kept bugging me for the fact that it’s not as easy to reproduce with digital music machines as you would assume. Sequencers and synths seem to want to be either perfectly in sync, or not at all with none of the middle ground required to perform Piano Phase. Since I started working on this project, it’s been a personal goal to find a way to enable phasing in general, and specifically a performance of Piano Phase, on the Groovesizers. I think I can finally move on!

For the techincally inclined, the Groovesizers are running Alpha firmware, v102. The (naked) Groovesizer on the right is slaved to the one on the left via MIDI sync. The slaved Groovesizer expects 6 MIDI clock pulses before moving to the next 16th note (assuming 24ppq). By pressing shift-R and F6, the slave is nudged ahead of the master by adding an extra pulse (it can also be nudged in the opposite direction by subtracting a pulse with shift-R and F5). After 6 nudges, the patterns align again with the slave now a 16th note ahead of the master.

5 thoughts on “Steve Reich – Piano Phase On Groovesizer

  1. Nice, but the performance of the gent playing the whole thing by himself on two pianos is far more interesting. I like the idea of making synths fall out of sync with each other, it’s cool this gent has found a way to do that without having to do it all in a computer. Right on.

  2. Thanks so much for the repost, synthhead. Apparently Piano Phase was Reich’s first attempt at doing phasing with live players after having previously done it with tape machines. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I nevertheless found it interesting to reverse that process and make it mechanical (well, digital) again.

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