New York-born experimental composer and abstract keyboardist Steve Reich was an important pioneer of minimalism. After studying with jazz pianist Hall Overton, Reich learned composition at the Julliard School of Music and later at Mills College, a hotbed of experimental music situated at the foot of the Oakland Hills, east of San Francisco. He later began experimenting with audio tape as a music medium at the San Francisco Tape Music Center with important figures involved in early electronic music experimentation, including Morton Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros, Ramon Sender, and Phil Lesh (bassist of the Grateful Dead) and more importantly with Terry Riley. Reich subsequently composed a number of film soundtracks and in 1967 collaborated with Oliveros and Richard Maxfield for the release New Sounds In Electronic Music. Phased patterns, sonic loops and electronic percussion were focal points from the mid-60s onwards.
Reissued by Alternative Fox, “Information, Transmission, Modulation And Noise” is an astounding release, though many reviews repeat inaccurate information about the recordings featured on it.
The music was first broadcast to the world in the early hours of November 6, 1970 on KPFA in Berkeley, California, when Reich and woodwind wizard/percussionist Jon Gibson made an unscheduled appearance at the studio, armed with a number of recent recordings. The first to air was a masterful version of Reich‘s “Four Organs”, taken from a performance given at the Guggenheim in New York in May 1970, featuring regular collaborators Philip Glass, Art Murphy, and Steve Chambers on combative organs, along with Reich, plus Gibson on non-stop maracas; it is strongly contrasted by the raw, mesmerizing power of a percussive piece recorded in Ghana in the summer of 1970, made with members of the Ghana Dance Ensemble playing traditional Ewe instruments; according to Reich‘s introduction during the broadcast, the piece is called “Gahu”, featuring master drummer Gideon Alewoye on the large agboba drum, dancer Freeman Dongo on the smaller kidi, dancer Thomas Annan on the even smaller kagan, and Reich and Steve Scott on axatse rattles, along with an unidentified player on a gonkogwe or gungong bell. On the B-side of the disc, Reich presents an equally mesmerizing rendition of Glass’ “Music In Similar Motion”, recorded at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis in May 1970, featuring Glass, Steve Chambers and Art Murphy on organ, Gibson and Richard Landry on soprano saxophones, Beverly Lauridsen on amplified cello, and Reich on an electric harpsichord.