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Cued Up

Bang the Drum Quickly

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Uptown and downtown, New York is at no loss for Steve Reich concerts this year (which is also the composer's diamond jubilee), whether it's in a sold-out Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall or a packed Greenwich Village nightclub like (Le) Poisson Rouge. After stunning us in March with Triple Quartet and Music for 18 Musicians at Alice Tully Hall, Juilliard's 20th-century music ensemble AXIOM returns to Cued Up this Sunday for Reich's seminal work Drumming.

Taken from a May 8, 2011 performance, AXIOM ferociously dives into this Reich masterwork, one that sounds as fresh and vibrant today as it it did when it hit the scene 40 (!) years ago. It's one of Reich's most potently caffeinated pieces, akin to taking a triple-espresso intravenously. Reich runs the gamut of percussion instruments, tangoing with bongos, marimbas, glockenspiels and even the female voice and whistles (here courtesy of soprano Kate Mulvihill and whistler Emily Eagen).

A generous portion of Reich's history surrounds Drumming, a work that sits as one of the benchmarks of his career. Perhaps the most curious part of this work's genesis, however, is that when Reich was in Ghana researching the African percussionist techniques that are reflected in the work, he had to depart the country sooner than he'd expected after contracting an illness that, myth and legend state, was malaria. How we suffer for our art.

Tune in Sunday, May 15 at 2 pm for this kinetic and driven performance of Drumming by the Axiom Ensemble, and again Tuesday at 8 PM and Thursday at 4 PM for encore Webcasts.

Mix engineer: Bill Bowen