GCSE Music Analysis of Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich
Electric Counterpoint General Points
- Composed by Steve Reich.
- Written for famous guitarist Pat Metheny.
- First performed in 1987.
- One of 3 movements which follow a typical fast-slow-fast pattern.
Key Features Of Minimalism
- The repetition of simple ideas.
- Layered textures.
- Diatonic Harmonies.
- Slow harmonic rhythms.
- Little variety in instrumentation.
- Electric Counterpoint is written for live guitar.
- When performed the live guitar is accompanied by 7 guitars and 2 bass guitars that have been prerecorded.
- The live guitar is amplified to blend in well with the backing tape.
The movement builds up in 3 layers:
- A syncopated quaver motif which is introduced in the live guitar and the top 4 guitar parts, one part at a time.
- A new syncopated quaver motif which is introduced in the bass guitars.
- A more sustained motif which is built around 3 chords, it begins in the live guitar part and is then transferred to the other parts.
After all 3 layers have been built up, layers 2 and 3 fade out together, leaving layer 1 to continue until it comes to rest on a held chord.
Melody and Texture
- The melody is made up of a 1 bar motif that is repeated continuously to form an ostinato.
- This motif is introduced by the live guitar and the top 4 guitar parts at different times (the first layer in the structure above). This creates a canon.
- In some parts note addition is used to build up the melody, this means that notes are gradually added to a part until all the notes in the melody are heard.
- At one point the live guitar plays a melody that is made up from selected individual notes from the other guitar parts creating a resultant melody.
- The piece has a contrapuntal texture.
Tonality and Harmony
- Electric counterpoint is in binary form (AB) with 4 sections within the A and B sections.
- The entire piece with a coda.
- At the start of the piece there is tonal ambiguity but there are hints towards it being in the key of E minor but this does not become clear until the bass guitar is introduced.
- The three chord progressions used in section A-3 are C Bm E5, C D Em and C D Bm.
- The chords above make it clearer that the piece’s tonality is modal.