Violin Phase

Violin Phase is a musical work written by minimalist composer Steve Reich in October 1967.


Violin Phase is an example of Reich's phasing technique, previously used in It's Gonna Rain, Come Out, Reed Phase, and Piano Phase, in which the music itself is created not by the instruments but by interactions of temporal variations on an original melody. Music of this kind is generally referred to as process music. It is the third in a series of instrumental compositions (together with Reed Phase and Piano Phase) in which Reich explored the possibility of phasing in music for a live player with tape accompaniment or, in the case of Piano Phase, for just two players (Potter 2000, 180).

In Violin Phase, two violins are recorded and played back, together at first. They are then made to go slowly out of sync by adding silence to one of the tapes. A new melody is formed by the interaction of the two out of sync instruments and is then accented by a third violin. This process is repeated with variations throughout the rest of the piece.

The most conspicuous difference between a "live" process piece like Violin Phase and Reich's tape pieces is that the latter consist of "pure phasing", with a slow and regular rate of change, whereas the live pieces are "stepped", alternating sections of gradual dephasing with sections of temporary rhythmic stability (Warburton 1988, 144).

Reich also arranged the piece for electric guitar and tape (or four electric guitars). In this form the work was recorded as Electric Guitar Phase by Dominic Frasca.



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