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Beat-Class Modulation in Steve Reich's Music

John Roeder
Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 25, No. 2. (Autumn, 2003), pp. 275-304.
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Sat Oct 27 08:42:40 2007

?Beat-Class Modulation in Steve Reichi Music


A beat-class model of rhythm, employed by Cohn and others to analyze textural form in Steve
Reich's early phase-shifting compositions, is here enlarged to embrace the concepts of beat-class
"tonic" and "mode," defined formally by analogy to pitch-class tonality. Using these concepts,
analyses of Reich's more recent music-Six Pianos, New York Counterpoint, and The Four Sectionsdemonstrate how form-creating process of pitch and rhythm result from the specific manner in
which repeated patterns are built up, varied, and combined polyphonically

AND anthologized,
Steve Reich's "minimal" music of the 1960s and
early 1970s proved surprisingly susceptible to a
model of rhythm developed for very different music. I t
was in the context of twelve-tone composition that Milton
~ a b b i t t ' first proposed conceiving rhythm analogously to
pitch by using the integer residues modulo 12 to represent
the metric location of event attacks (rather than the events'
durations, as did the Darmstadt composers). Later scholars
applied the concept of set to the rhythms of non-serial
music; Pressing and Anku, for instance, treated world musics
that were inspirations for Reich's ~ o m ~ o s i t i o nBut
s . ~ the
most detailed analytical application of this rhythmic model
was Richard Cohn's study of content and large-scale form
in Reich's Phase Patterns and Violin
Each of these
"phase-shifting" pieces, like a canon, combines a repeated
pattern with a delayed statement of the same pattern in another voice. As the piece progresses, the temporal interval
of imitation between original and imitated voices varies
systematically, from one beat up to the whole length of the

pattern. Noting the "formal resemblances between the structures of metric cycles and the twelve-pitch-class universe,"
Cohn pursued the consequences of the idea that "much of
the technology developed for atonal pitch-class analysis is
transferable to the rhythmic domain." Adopting terminology
suggested by Dan W a r b ~ r t o nhe
, ~ represented each repeated
pattern as a beat-class set-a rhythmic analog of a pitch-class
set-that denotes which beats are attacked in the pattern.
This model facilitated analysis of the varying attack densities
that result from the systematic phasing of beat-class sets;
specifically, Cohn analyzed how density in these pieces develops toward and away from saturation, or the "beat-class
aggregate," in which every beat is attacked. Formally, generating the beat-class aggregate by phasing a particular beatclass set against itself is analogous to generating the pitchclass aggregate by taking the union of transpositions of a
particular pitch-class set. Cohn's paper demonstrated how
the large-scale textural design of these pieces could be understood, by considering processes analogous to the transpositional combination of pitch-class sets, to manifest properties of the small-scale beat-class sets themselves.


Babbitt 1962.
Pressing 1983, Anku 1988.
Cohn 1992.

Warburton 1988.




pc content: { 1,2,4,6,7,9,B)

Beat-class andpitch-class materials in Six Pianos, R55-69 and R74

than those of the phase-shifting pieces, often exceeding the

twelve-beat length that suggested analogies with the twelvepitch-class universe. They are not exhaustively phased; more
typically, they appear in two- or three-voice canons at fixed,
not varying, temporal intervals. Moreover, the pieces often
feature "build-upsn6 in which an entering voice, beginning
with one attack and adding attacks with each iteration,
gradually assembles a complete beat-class transposition of a
pattern repeating concurrently in another voice. I n other
passages, however, different concurrent voices may present

I n the mid-1970s Reich moved beyond his rather restrictive experiments with phase shifting.' Although he continues to organize his music out of repeated patterns, its materials and scope have greatly expanded. T h e patterns are longer

For a summary of Reich's compositional development in the 1970s and

early 1980s, see Schwarz 1980-82. Recent theoretical work on Reich's
music has been correspondingly quite diverse: Saltini 1993 extends
Cohn's ideas to other phase-shifting pieces; Quinn 1997 considers associations of contour in The Desert Music; and Cumming 1997 invokes
psychoanalytic theories to interpret the "compulsive" rhythmic ostinati
in Dgerent Trains.

Reich 1977.


pc content: still { 1,2,4,6,7,9,B


incipits on beat-class 4


beat class sets that are not transpositionally related. Patterns

change content during some pieces, and some pieces superimpose patterns of differing content and periodicities. Texture is also freer. Ensembles are larger and more diverse, and
individual parts fade in and out. Pulsing large chords, often
partitioned into overlapping and shifting components, appear simultaneously with phased patterns, or alternating
with them.
The form of these more recent compositions is not simply
a matter of beat-class-aggregate formation. Reich himself
describes form in terms of changes of mode and key, developments of timbre and register, chord progression, tempo


modulation, and metric fluctuation.' His abandonment of

phasing for other formative processes, while still maintaining
the repeated patterns of his earlier music, raises some interesting questions about his current technique. W h a t function
do these patterns play in the more variegated textural and
harmonic designs? W h a t motivates the particular choices of
pitch-transposition and beat-class transposition, or, more
generally, how are tonal and metric processes coordinated?
This paper proposes some ways of answering these questions by developing a model that shows how both tonality

Reich 1977,1986, and 1991



attacked. Nevertheless, the registration and rhythm of the

pitch classes up until R60 establish D as a tonic or, at least,
as a persistent chord
Specifically, the lowest pitch, D3,
and the highest, F#5, suggest the constant presence of a D
major triad; both pitches are always approached by leap, giving them stress and thereby suggesting that they function as
stable chord tones. The priority of these pitch classes is also
enhanced by their metrical regularity: one of them is attacked
every quarter note due to the particular interval of imitation
between pianos 3 and 4, and between pianos 1 and 5.
Starting at R60 the same diatonic collection is maintained, but a new tonality begins to be established by changes
that shift emphasis to different pitch classes in the collection. The changes are indicated by annotations on Example
1. First, at R60, the low-register patterns that accented D3
fade out. Then at R64 Pianos 1 and 3 begin patterns that,
although similar in contour to Ql and Q 3 and use the same
collection, place Es at the registral extremes of the ensemble.
Accordingly, there is a modulation to E dorian, mediated by
the unvaried Q2.
Some metrical ambiguity is evident especially during
R55-60, as the pianos engage in the imitation described
above.'' Two different metrical interpretations of the passage
are analyzed in Example 2, which shows the combination of
all voices at R59 and labels the eight eighth-note beats with
integers from 0 to 7, following the conventions of beat-class
theory. Attending to the lowest notes in the texture, one can
hear pairs of D3s repeated in a rhythm of 5+3 eighths. (The
fast tempo, quarter = 192, makes the second of each pair dif-

and meter depend on pitch, harmonic, and other accentual

features of the patterns as they are combined polyphonically.
First, an informal examination of Reich's transitional music
of the early 1970's motivates the focus on accent. Formalism
is then developed to represent how accents combine, defining the percepts of beat-class "tonic" and "mode." Excerpts
from two of Reich's mature works from the 1980s will be analyzed to show how their pattern combinations are designed
to produce large-scale modulations of pitch-class and beatclass tonics, and thus to create musical form.

The role of accent in large-scale process is evident from

even a cursory listening to Reich's transitional pieces. Example 1 shows a representative excerpt from Six Pianos
(1973). As it begins, at R55, all instruments are playing, and
the pitch relations among their materials are clear. Pianos 1,
2, and 3 repeat distinct eight-beat patterns, labeled Q1, Q2,
and Q 3 respectively.
is an exact pitch transposition up a
perfect fifth of Q2. Q 3 doubles the highest three pitches of
Ql an octave lower, but substitutes D g and A3 for Ql's F#,
and B,. Imitation is evident in two other parts. Piano 4 plays
the same pattern as Piano 3 (Q3) but one eighth-note beat
later. In terms of beat-class theory, this canon can be symbolized as tl(Q3), where tn signifies "time transposition (delay)
by n beats." (This paper uses lower-case t to minimize confusion with pitch-class transposition, upper-case T.) Similarly
the pattern played by Piano 5 can be expressed as t,(Ql),
that is, as the pattern of Piano 1 delayed by 6 eighths.
As the music continues, some clear pitch processes
emerge from these specific time- and pitch-transpositional
relations. Although all parts draw their pitches from the
same diatonic scale,8 the dense imitation might seem to forestall the emergence of any one of the pitch classes as a tonic;
indeed, on any given beat most members of the collection are

Since Q2 is a 5-23[02357] diatonic pentachord, its combination with

its T , transpose, Q1, yields the diatonic heptachord (1,2,4,6,7,9,B).


9 Reich names the tonalities analyzed here in his foreword to the score of
Six Pianos (1977).

Other analysts have noted similar metric fluctuations in other music by

Reich. Cohn (1992) remarks that the downbeat "floats"in some o f the
phase-shifting pieces, and Gretchen Horlacher (1994) has documented
several intriguing instances o f metrical ambiguity and process in Reich's
later works. The transitional Music for Pieces of W o o d provides another
clear example o f how Reich's interest changed from phasing to the
build-up o f canons involving ambiguities o f downbeats.





leaps'to registral-boundary pcs

quarter note



Pitch-class emphasis,pulse, and competing downbeats in Six Pianos, R59.

ficult to hear as a distinct event, and the first of each pair is

introduced by leap, making the onset of the first more
marked.) T h e greater regular accent, and so the sense of
downbeat, accrues to the onset of the longer of these two interonset durations, 5, which always occurs on beat-class 0.
T h e second interpretation attends to the highest pitches,
where one could hear beat-class 4 as the downbeat since the
longer member of the repeated interonset-duration series
2+6 regularly begins then.
T h e downbeat ambiguity resolves abruptly at R61, when
pianos 3 and 4 drop out. But the sense of beat-class 4 as an
alternative downbeat returns soon after the modulation, as
shown in the latter half of Example 1. The build-up in pianos 4 and 5 starting in R67 regularly accents beat-class 4 as
the beginning of a group of eighth notes, even though the
pattern when completed (in R74) turns out to be a beatclass-transposition of piano 2 by one beat, not four.
This analysis suggests that the questions of rhythm and
pitch surrounding Reich's recent music may be addressed by
considering the function of accent in the repeated patterns.

To focus the inquiry further, and to establish a basis for a

more formal and precise model of accent, let us examine a
more recent composition.
T h e passage shown in Example 3 occurs during the first
movement of New York Counterpoint (1985). It begins with a
single clarinet presenting, without build-up, a repeated pattern lasting 12 eighth notes. (Reich's score is written in Bb,
but for convenience I will refer to the pitches as they are notated, not as they sound.) As above, beat classes are labeled
conventionally by integers, with beat-class (bc) 0 as the first
beat in each measure. (Since the zeros indicate notated measure beginnings, bar lines may be omitted for clarity in this
and subsequent examples.) Thus the repeated pattern places
attacks on the set of beat classes {0,4,5,7,9,11), which I will
call Q l . I n R8-R33 a six-voice texture develops that is
imitative but not exactly pitch-canonic. I t proceeds in two
stages. During R9-R19 two more patterns, labeled Q 2 and
Q3, are built up loudly, then faded and transferred to other
voices. Their build-ups are irregular and rapid, not gradual
and attack-by-attack like those in Six Pianos. Although these


voices have the same pitch content, their pitches vary in

1 the Eb6 is long and
order and duration; for example, in Q
followed by a short G5,while in Q 2 it is short and followed
by a long Bb5. Nevertheless their beat-class sets are transpositionally related: Q2, {0,2,4,5,9,10), is t5(Q1), and Q3,
{0,1,3,5,7,8), is t8(Ql), that is, t3(Q2) The combination of
these transpositions, by the way, does not create the beatclass aggregate, for beat-class 6 is never attacked.
In the second stage of this excerpt, R20-R33, three more
and Q 6 on Example 3. Each
patterns enter, labeled Q4,
pattern rapidly and irregularly builds up a beat-class set that
is identical to a pattern in the first stage-Q4 builds up the
builds up Q2's set, and Q 6
same beat-class set as Q1,
Q3's. So, the same beat-class sets are built up in the same
order, and, moreover, the beat-class aggregate is not attained
at the end of the second stage either. However, the pitch
content of these later patterns is different and generally
lower than that of the originals. These differences arise from
a specific relation among the patterns: each pattern-pitch in
the second stage
- is a tenth below the pitch at the same beat
class in the corresponding first-stage pattern. (The few exceptions to this rule are necessitated by the limited range of
the clarinets, and yet also contribute significantly to largescale process, as will be shown.)
confronted with this evident compositional scheme, we
can focus the questions raised earlier. Since the ending combination is not the aggregate, what are appropriate ways to
characterize the rhythmic form, if not in terms of aggregates? And since the imitative processes are not strictly
canonic, what design regulates or results from the specific
ways that the patterns build up and vary their content and
their time- and pitch-transpositional relations?
As was the case with Example 1, it seems to me that all
these questions can be answered by attending, in detail, to
the accentual properties of the patterns and of their combinations, and by modeling them appropriately. Rather than
treating all attacks in a pattern as equally weighted, as in
previous beat-class-set theory, the model should incorporate

the accentual distinctions that pitch and rhythm create

among them.

* * * * *
Although no previous research has attempted such a
model specifically for Reich's music, recent rhythmic theory
provides a sound basis for such an investigation, by clari@ing
the nature and typology of accent.'' It defines accent as a
perceived emphasis, at a point in time, that may arise in at
least three distinct ways: from perceived changes in pitch, duration, loudness, and in more complex musical processes of
harmony, timbre, and texture; from expectations of regularity
such as meter; and from the perceived function of the events
at that timepoint in the structure of melodic and harmonic
segments. This general conception suits Reich's music fairly
well, but it will be necessary to define the various types of
accent much more specifically, in order to understand their
interactions and contributions to rhythmic process.
To begin this task, Example 4 defines "intrastream" accents, meaning- accents that arise within each individual
voice in a texture (more complex types of accent, such as
changes in registral density, which result from the interaction
of all concurrent voices, are also important, and will be discussed below). T h e definitions are expressed formally for
precision, and in order to distinguish accents that are specific
to Reich's monophonic patterns from more general types.12
Each is instanced in Example 5(a), which analyzes the accentual structure of Q1.
A n accent of climax appears at the onset of an event
whose pitch exceeds those of the preceding and subsequent events. I n Example 5(a), the first EL6 does not take
such an accent, since no event precedes it, but all subsequent Ebbs do. So do all BbSs,since each is preceded and
followed by lower pitches.



Berry 1976, Lerdahl &Jackendoff 1983, Kramer 1988.

Some of these definitions formalize verbal descriptions such as those in
Lerdahl &Jackendoff 1983,17.

F root



OU t



build-up of Q3





" . ' I






Pattern relations,processes of beat-class andpitch-class modulation, andform in theJrst movement ofNew York Counterpoint.


Q3 = {0.1,3,5,7,8] = t3(Q2)

Second Stage:
build-up of Q4


C1. 1

new bc tonic:


new pc rooi: Ab

3. [continued]

build-up of Q5


Cl. 3

competing bc tonics

root reverts to F

3. [continued]

MUSIC T H E O R Y SPECTRUM 25 ( 2 0 0 ~ )

(bc1 8)


build-up of Q6


bc tonic

reverts to bc 0





A n accent of nadir appears at each onset of each event

whose pitch is equal to or lower than the lowest pitch so
far, and that is lower than the immediately preceding and
following- events. Thus, in Example 5(a) an accent of
nadir appears at each onset of F4, since it is the lowest
pitch in the passage. A t higher troughs in the contour,
such as at the onsets of Ab5, there is no such accent.

3. [continued]

An accent of (interonset) duration appears at the onset

of an event that is much longer than the preceding event,
or when the time to the next onset is much greater than
the time since the last onset.13

T h e tenuto marks on the score are interpreted here simply as directing

the performer to hold the note for its entire notated value. Any dynamic

Given a monophonic stream S presenting a series of n non-overlapping events of the form (pitch, duration, timepoint of attack):
S = ((pl,dl,tl), (p2,d2,t2),(p3,d3,t3),. . .' (pn,dn,tn))
such that, for all i ( l ~ i < n ) t,i+, 2 ti+di.
Quantify the pitches pi acording to the integer model of pitch (Rahn 1980), and model pitch differences (intervals) as integers.
Find a duration of which every timepoint ti and duration di can be expressed as an integer multiple. Quantify this duration as 1,
and quantify the ti and di accordingly as integers.
At ti there is
an accent of

symbolized by



Pi > Pi-1 and Pi > Pi+1


pi < pi-1 and pi < pi+land pi 5 p.J for 1 5 j

(Interonset) Duration

di >> di-l or ti+l- ti >> ti - tl-l

Subcollection shift

There is an integer k < i such that 0 < I pi - pi-k I 5 2 (semitones)

and there is no j: i-k < j < i such that 0 < I pi-k - pj 1 5 2 (semitones)

Beginning of
connected series

B (local)

ti - ti-l > 1, and there exists m

and t. = t. + 1

> i such that for all j: i 5 j < m, d.J = 1

J + ~ J

1 Attack

There is an accent of one of the types defined above at ti -T and at ti

-2T; or there is a pulse accent at ti -T and an accent of one of the
types defined above at ti -2T and at ti -3T
pi exists [an event (not silence) is attacked at ti]


4. Types of intrustream accent in Reich? music.

Accents of sudcollection s h f t originate in the special

pitch context of Reich's music: diatonic scales organized
into rooted triads that are extended, as in jazz, by tertian
"tension tones." In the patterns Reich composes from
such collections, the change from a given pitch to an adja-

cent pitch in the diatonic scale marks a change of harmony,

more than do leaps, which often simply extend the prevailing tertian sonority without changing the root.14 Example 5(b) illustrates such a change within Q l : once the

emphasis added by the performer would, of course, increase the accent

on the note's onset.

The rooted subcollections I am positing to underlie Reich's music may

thus be understood, in William Benjamin's (1984) terms, to constitute
"images" whose "shift" create accent.


bc: 0

11 0






(a) Accent in thejirst iterations of Q1.

beat class:


stepwisepitch motion helps mark

a shift of rooted subcollection

- -




(c) Accent types on each beat class (starting with the secondstatement of 41).

(b) Accent of subcollection shift (detail).


pattern is established, the stepwise motion in register 5

creates an accent of subcollection shift at beat-classes
4 and 11. Diagonal lines on the example indicate the
stepwise pitch displacements associated with this accent.
Similarly, there are local accents of !group beginning that
arise naturally from Reich's highly constrained rhythms.
Despite the clear underlying eighth-note pulse stream,
most attacks within each voice are a quarter note or
longer apart. When events appear on immediately successive beats, the change to the shorter interonset duration
induces a grouping boundary, and so marks the onset of

the first of the events for attention.'' In Ql such accents

of beginning appear on beat-classes 4 and 11.16



The definition of this type of accent is similar to Lerdahl & Jackendoff's Grouping Preference Rule 3(d) (1983, 46). Although these authors make a distinction between phenomenal accent and accent of
grouping structure, their GPR 3 nevertheless acknowledges an interconnection between these two types, by asserting that phenomenal accent marks the beginning of groups.
O f course the repetitions of entire patterns also mark group boundaries,
conforming to Lerdahl & Jackendoff's Grouping Preference Rule 6

Regularly repeating durations marked by accent induce

a pulse stream, which itself accents timepoints metrically.l7
For instance, a series of equal durations in Q
1 quickly establishes a half-note pulse, as follows: First, the accents
on beat-classes 0 and 4 project a half-note duration, starting from beat-class 4, that is expected to be realized at
beat-class 8.'' Although no event marks beat-class 8, the
recurrences of accent a half-note later, on the next beatclass 0, then again on the following beat-class 4, confirm
the half note as a repeated duration, and so creates a pulse
stream. The stream is symbolized in Example 5(a) as a
horizontal line linking vertical strokes that denote when
pulse accents occur, according to the formal definition
given in Table 1. Isolated pulse accents may also be produced, under the given definition, without linking into
continuous streams; in Q l , pulse accent appears on beatclasses 9, 11, 1 (since 9 and 11 are accented), and 3, but
the accents needed to establish a continuous quarter-note
stream are crucially lacking at beat-classes 5 and 7.19
Although many of these definitions are consistent with
other theorists' treatment of accent, I do not intend their formality to suggest that all these accents are aurally salient in
all music. Nadir accent, for example, is arguably negligible in
the more usual styles of music that presents a given melody
only once or twice. These accents can be heard in Reich's





(1983, 51-2). But in passages dominated by the build-up o f patterns,

this makes a very minor contribution.
More on the nature o f pulse streams can be found in Roeder 1994. The
concept o fpulse "layers,"treated most thoroughly in Krebs 1999, is similar, although it is not usually construed as a source o f metrical accent.
The conception o f durational "projection" is taken from Hasty 1999,
although it is not part o f his agenda to explain its connection to traditional notions o f metrical accent.
Under this definition an event does not take accent simply because it
is notated on a strong beat. This seems consistent with practice: performances o f Reich's music supervised by the composer do not stress
notated downbeats.

music, however. Indeed, it is precisely the unusual features of

his music-its repetitiveness and redundancy-that permits
the listener to focus on such accentual subtleties as nadir, and
then to consider their participation in distinctive, large-scale
rhythmic processes. The formal definitions provide a basis
for a precise description of rhythmic form, as we shall see,
and also for the evaluation of such descriptions.
T h e analysis in Example 5 shows how the distribution of
accent among the beat classes in Q
1 varies in both quality
and quantity. Some beat classes take more types of accent
than others, as demonstrated by the tally in Example 5(c).
Beat-class accentuation also varies over time: some beat
classes in later repetitions of Q1 have different accents than
the corresponding beat classes in its first statement, because
some accents, like climax and pulse, take time to establish.
Moreover, when a pattern is building up, the accent one attributes to its attack varies considerably with the degree of
completeness of the pattern. When one attends to accent,
one hears hardly any exact repetition in this nominally
"repetitive" music.
To express this diversity it is not sufficient to represent
rhythm simply as the collection of all attacked beat classes, as
has been done for Reich's phase music. A tally of accent types
on each beat class, as suggested in Example 5(c), is somewhat
better. It does not account well for differences in accentual
quantity, because it does not weight the various types of accent, and because some accents of a given type are stronger
if, for instance, they involve greater change. But even without such weighting the tally facilitates a description of the
rhythm of Example 5(a): during that time span a distinctive
series of accent types consistently repeats, promoting the
perception of beat classes; at beat-classes 0, 4, and 11, the
most types of accent appear, while consistent but fewer types
of accent appear at other beat classes. When we evaluate aurally the strength of these accents, beat-class 0 clearly stands
alone as most accented, since it is the highest and longest
event, while beat-class 11 sounds weaker than beat-class 4
(and O), but stronger than others.



This description suggests a formal analogy between the

accentual organization of rhythm and modal organization of
itch, one that extends and enriches the analogy Cohn made
between beat-class sets and "atonal" pitch-class sets. Music
may be understood as "modal" to the extent that its pitches
are heard as instances of pitch classes organized in a functional hierarchy. T h e structurally most important pitch class,
called the tonic, acts as a reference for the collection, in that
the other pitches are named as "scale degreesn according to
the intervals they form with the tonic. T h e ensemble of these
intervals, together with information about the relative structural importance of the non-tonic pitch classes, constitutes
the mode.20 For instance, the D-major section in Example 1
is distinguished from the E-dorian section not by its pitchclass content, which is the same, but because a different
pitch class is presented as the tonic. Since the other pitch
classes form different intervals with E than they do with D,
and since they, too, are accented differently-for example B
is more prominent at R64 than at R55-the mode of these
two sections is different.
T h e concepts of tonic and mode also seem appropriate for
expressing the consistent structural distinctions that Reich's
rhythms make among beat classes. I define the "beat-class
tonic" of a time span as the beat class that, in a given context,
acts as a reference for the other accented beat classes, in the
sense that one perceives their temporal position in terms
of the interonset durations from it to them. Although the
meaning of "beat-class tonic" thus overlaps with that of
"downbeat," I find the term "tonic" more apt. It avoids confusion with notated downbeats, which often have no audible
status in Reich's performances; it facilitates the description
of competing, even conflicting, tonics, and of changes and

This prescriptive, compositionally oriented definition of mode resonates with recent research in music psychology. For instance, Butler &
Brown 1994 demonstrate how tonality (that is, tonic and mode) may be
cognized by locating "rare" intervals within a given diatonic set, intervals that are understood to span and therefore to mark specific scale
degrees members in a major or minor key.

25 ( 2 0 0 ~ )

ambiguities that the term "downbeat" may exclude; and it

emphasizes similarities in the way that Reich changes beatclass tonics and pitch-class tonics through the use of pivot
collections, which will be discussed below.
T h e distribution of differently weighted accents provides
a basis for characterizing what I call the "beat-class mode" of
the passage. I t can be determined by an analysis like that of
Example 5, which locates the most accented beat classestaking into account both the number of different types of accent on each beat class and the weight of each of those accents
-and labels each of them by the number of beats from the
tonic to it. Just as pitch-class mode is identified with reference to triadic or otherwise distinctive interval structures,
the beat-class mode is identified by matching the most accented beat classes with distinctive series of durations. If
these modally significant beat classes create a pulse stream,
then the "mode" of a pattern is tantamount to its meter, but
in many cases they do not, such as in the passage from The
Four Sections discussed below. Usually, however, the tonic belongs to the beat-class set that characterizes the mode, just as
the tonic pitch class belongs to the tonic triad.
Let us consider this analogy of rhythm and pitch more
specifically in the context of New York Counterpoint, Example 3. Rehearsals 8-9 project F as pitch-class tonic by
pitch-specific features of the pattern evident in Example
5(a). F recurs regularly as the lowest pitch, acting as a pedal
point. T h e other most accented pitch classes sound like
chord factors of an F-rooted tertian harmony-Ab is a minor
third over the root, EL a minor 7th. Root movement, such as
it is (Example 5[b]), leads toward F. The intervals that all the
pitch classes form with the tonic are consistent with the distinctive structures of the minor and dorian modes.
Analogously, 0 is projected as beat-class tonic by intrinsically rhythmic features of the pattern. It is the first accented
beat class, and at its first two attacks it takes more types of
accent than does any preceding timepoint. Although by R9
beat-classes 4 and 11 present as many accent types, beatclass 0 still takes the greatest accent of climax and duration,

and it contributes to two pulse streams. T h e other accented

beat classes relate to the tonic in a distinctive way. Beatclasses 4 and 8 belong to a tonic-including pulse stream that
measures the time span of Ql into three equal durations.
T h e beat class just preceding the tonic is strongly accented
and belongs to a set of beat-classes {11,1,3} that suggests but
does not quite sustain another pulse stream. This distinctive
ensemble of accents, and their temporal relation to the beatclass tonic, constitutes the beat-class mode.21
As a further illustration of beat-class modality, consider
Example 6, which analyzes accent in the build-up of Q2, beginning at R9. Recall that the complete Q2, as a beat-class
set, is tj(Ql). If Q 2 presented exactly Ql's series of pitches
and durations-as it would in Reich's phase-shifting pieces
-then the beat-class tonic would shift to beat-class 5, conforming to the time transposition. Its mode (expressing how
its time span is divided by pulse and other accents) would remain the same. (Generally, exact time transposition, like
pitch transposition, changes tonic but not mode.) However,
even though Q 2 contains the same pitches as Ql, the order
and duration of Abj, Bb5, and Eb6 in it are different, and so
the distribution of accent in Q 2 is different. This affects the
beat-class mode: in Q2, accent supports two half-note pulse
streams, one containing beat-classes {8,0,4}, and the other
Beat-class 0 in Q 2 has more accent than does the
Beat-class mode resembles theoretical constructs of tala in North
Indian classical music, which are distinguished by length and by the
beats that receive the most accent. See Clayton 2001. Tala, however, are
not usually built up or phased.
zz The coexistence of these two pulses can be characterized as the "displacement dissonance" D4+1 in terms of Krebs 1999. Such a description is certainly conceivable for minimal music; indeed Krebs's analysis
of form in Schumann's music, which narrates a succession of states of
metrical consonance and dissonance, resembles my accounts of form
in Reich's music. What especially distinguishes our approaches, however, is my focus on shifting beat-class tonics (which are not contemplated in Krebs's theory) and their correlation with changes of pitchclass-modality.

transpositionally corresponding beat-class 7 in Q1,and beatclass 9 in Q 2 has less accent than does the transpositionally
corresponding beat-class 4 in Q1, so stream {8,0,4} is
stronger and stream {1,5,9} is weaker than would be the case
under exact transposition.
T h e changes also affect the beat-class tonic. In the complete Q2, at R12, beat-class 4 takes as many types of accent
as does beat-class 5 , so at first glance it might seem that either of them could act referentially. But the specific way in
which Reich builds up Q2-another crucial difference between it and Q1-is decisive in establishing which of these
two beat classes is the tonic. Beat-class 4 is the first accented
beat class, and at its first three attacks there is more accent
than at any preceding timepoint. Although by R12 beatclass 5 presents as many accent types, beat-class 4 still takes
the greatest accent of climax, and it contributes to more pulse
streams. Contrary to what one might have expected from the
t5 relation of the beat-class sets, then, the pitch reordering
and the build-up of Q 2 make beat-class 4 referential.
1 and Q 2 in Examples 4
Comparing the analyses of Q
and 5, it is evident that both patterns place their climax on
their respective tonic, and both articulate a complete pulse
stream, including the tonic, that measures their time spans
into three equal durations. In terms of pulses and accent
of climax, then, Q 2 (at R12) and Ql have the same mode.
This is analogous to the similarity we intuit between two
F-minor-seventh chords in which the chord factors are differently voiced and doubled.
Moreover, these two examples of beat-class modality illustrate a process that is essential to the form of Reich's
music. Changes in tonic or mode-which I will call beatclass "modulation"-create large-scale contrast, progression,
and return, analogous to processes of pitch-class tonality.
These modulations arise from changes in the membership of
the beat-class collection itself, or from changes in the types,
strength, and placement of accent within a continuing collection. Sameness of mode, which is essential to formal
processes of closure, arise in patterns with different beat-class


1 D



9 10
not quite a

d streams


1 2

J stream

4 5 6


0 1 2

8 9 1 0


6. Accent in the build-upof Q2.

sets and tonics, as long as the most accented beat classes relate to their respective tonics in the same modally characteristic way. The variations in Reich's patterns exemplify these
theoretical situations, as we shall see.
With this model, however, I am not suggesting anything
more than a formal correspondence between rhythm and
pitch. Modality is perceived differently in these two domains, so I do not claim that the "distinctive" structures that
characterize pitch-class modes (triads, which are asymmetrical subsets of the total chromatic) are perceptually equivalent
to those that characterize beat-class modes (usually pulse
streams, which are symmetrical subsets of the beat-class
aggregate). Yet the correspondence runs much deeper that
has been previously discussed, and I will show that such a
"modal" conception of rhythm is essential to understanding
metrical and other large-scale processes in Reich's postphase music.

When patterns combine polyphonically, their accents interact richly to affect beat-class tonic and mode. To a certain
extent the modality of a particular polyphonic passage depends upon both the relative prominence of the voices and
the context that precedes it. For example, during the build-

up of Q2, when it is loud, the accentual structure analyzed

in Example 6 dominates the texture, stressing beat-class 4.
But since the pulse stream characterizing the mode of Q2,
{8,0,4}, is beat-class-identical with the modal pulse stream
and since beat-class 0 is accented in Q 2 nearly as
much as beat-class 4, the combination of Q 2 with Ql does
not change the tonic or mode established by Ql. Q 2 has a
different tonic, as analyzed in Example 6, only if it is played
in isolation from its true context. At R13, as Q 2 fades, its
prominence diminishes, so one becomes more aware of its
interactions with Q l . Intrastream accents still may be heard,
but interference among the streams affects their salience. A t
R14, when Ql and Q 2 are equally loud, their combination,
analyzed in Example 7(a), denies accent of contour and
duration to some beat classes that are accented when either
is played alone. For example, in Ql the BbS at beat-class 9
took a pitch-contour accent because it was preceded and
followed by lower pitches, F, and Ab,. However, the Bb, at
beat-class 5 in Q 2 has a such a long duration that it covers
1 when the patterns are combined; consequently,
the F, in Q
the Bb5 at beat-class 9 no longer has pitch-contour accent,
because it no longer follows a lower note. The pitches added
by Q 2 to Ql also change the moments where we sense shifts
of subcollection: for example, beat-classes 2 and 5, which



d streams


7 8



0 1 2



I (weaker)


(a) Accent in the eyual-loudness combination of Q2 and Q I .

beat class:


(b) Accent types on each beat class.

would take subcollection-shift accents if Q 2 were isolated,

do not take such accents in combination with Q l . O n the
other hand, emphasis is added when accents of the same
type in different voices coincide. For example, Ql and Q 2
are rhythmically aligned such that they both place a beginning accent (that is, they both begin a distinctive series of
eighth notes) on beat-class 4. T h e interaction of voices also
creates types of accent-"interstream accentsn-that do not
arise in a monophonic texture, but that can affect modality.


Chief among those is accent of textural density, symbolized

by T on the analysis, which accrues to timepoints at which

there are more attacks than at the most recent preceding, attacked timepoint.
Example 7(b) documents the adjustment made by the
combination of Q 2 with Ql to the accentual profile of the
12-beat-class time span and also shows the newly introduced
T measure. Comparing its tally of accent types with that of
Example 5(c), which represents the beat-class mode at the



beginning of the excerpt, we see that beat-class 0 still has the

greatest variety of accent, and that beat-class 4 has also
gained variety. Moreover, beat-class 0 still predominates in
the strength of its accents, and beat-classes 0 and 4 together
reinforce the beat-class mode characterized by the {8,0,4}
pulse stream. But the mode is now colored by another and
weaker pulse stream that arises from multiple accents on
beat-classes 5 and 9.
In the following music, as Q 3 is built up and combined
with Ql and Q2, the accentual profile adjusts again in an
apparently calculated manner. Like Q2, Q 3 as a beat-class
set is a transposition of Q1, and it contains the same pitches
as Q
1 but in a slightly different order. Just as the build-up of
Q 2 emphasized beat-class 4, the build-up of Q 3 emphasizes,
by means of durational and metrical accents, beat-class 8 of
the pulse stream {8,0,4) established by Q1. Accents of subcollection shift within Q 3 strengthen the beat classes of this
mode. At R19, as Q 3 fades to the loudness of Ql and Q2,
the accent structure again adjusts, as analyzed in Example 8.
Beat-class 0 is accented strongly and in nearly every possible
way, and although other pulse streams can be discerned, the
one that includes beat-classes {8,0,4} is supported best by
the most number of accent-types. Across the other beat
classes, accent is spread fairly evenly, rendering the tonic and
mode susceptible to further alteration. Beat-class 6 stands as
the notable exception: it is not even accented by pulse.
Interpreted in context of the model of beat-class modality,
this lack of emphasis is designed to negate utterly the possibility of duple meter-that is, it clarifies the triple-meter
mode by denying the simplest alternative.
To summarize: during the first stage of New York Counterpoint, beat-class 0 has been established as tonic. Then, as
beat classes and accents multiply in the build-up of new
voices, first beat-class 4 then beat-class 8 become more
prominent. By R19 a texture is achieved in which nearly
every beat class is similarly accented, except those that define
the mode and tonic. This analysis reveals a rhythmic process
essential to this movement, and to many of Reich's recent

25 (2003)

pieces. As will be demonstrated below, the accentual focus

caused by the build-ups and by the interaction of repeated
patterns shifts from beat class to beat class, analogous
changes of pitch-class tonic in a tonal composition. The
modulation of beat-class tonics has its own immanent logic
quite distinct from that of the pitch-class-modulatory
processes it resembles formally.
To understand this logic, let us return to Example 3 and
examine its second stage. In this passage, as during the first
stage, the loud build-up of each pattern adjusts the types and
weights of accent on each beat class. As each pattern matures
and then fades into the accompanimental texture, it interacts
with the established patterns. Thus the resulting ensemble
does not remain constant, but is subject to changes of mode
and tonic. The pitch-class collection also undergoes formally
similar but not exactly coordinated modulation.
Specifically, although pattern Q 4 builds up the same
beat-class set as the original pattern Q l , its particular pitch
series and build-up have a very different rhythmic impact,
even shifting the accentual focus of the entire ensemble. It
begins in R20 by loudly stressing beat-classes 9 and 11,
distracting attention from the still referential beat-class 0. At
R21 it marks beat-class 4 with an accent of beginning, while
still omitting beat-class 0. As three voices now accent beatclass 4 the same way, that beat class suddenly and decisively
assumes the role of tonic. Meanwhile, the accents still sustain the pulse stream {8,0,4), continuing to measure the pattern's time span in the previously established manner.
Changing the tonic this way while maintaining the mode is
analogous to changing the key from F minor to, say, Ab
minor, in which the new tonic is a member of the modedefining tonic triad of the original key
Coincidentally, the same new pitches that cause the beatclass modulation also restructure the ongoing pitch-class
collection. Since each pitch in Q 4 is a tenth below the corresponding pitch in Q1, Q4's pitches at beat-classes 4 and 5
are lower than any preceding pitch. The lowest, Ab, insinuates itself as the new referential pitch class, a change that



8. Accent in the equal-loudness combination of Q3, Q2, and Ql.

is solidified as a modulation at R22 by the introduction of

a new pitch class, Db.23Thus the beginning of the second
stage establishes both a new beat-class tonic and a new
pitch-class tonic via structurally similar modulations.
Reich's specific choices of pattern and build-up in the following music can be similarly explained, with reference to
beat-class modality. The build-up of the next pattern,
introduces the same beat classes in the same order as did Q2
in R9-R12. T h e resulting stress on beat-class 4 functions
now to confirm its role as tonic. (See the annotations to
R24-R27 in Example 3.) T h e build-up of
(still mimicking that of Q2) is designed to hold off its lowest pitch, F3,
until the very end, at R28. As the new lowest pitch, the F
will change the pitch-class tonic and reemphasize beat-class
0, so delaying its entrance prolongs the previous pitch-class


Similar changes of tonic occur just after the build-up shown in Example 3 is complete. A twice-repeated series of pulsing chords, drawn
from the opening of the movement, and each lasting several iterations
of the repeated patterns, successively presents bbm7, DbM7, and
Fm("dd6, chords. The series animates the unchanging pitch classesnotably Eb and Ab-in the patterns by varying their intervallic relations to the changing roots.

and beat-class tonics as long as possible. Once F3 enters,

R28-R31 project rhythmic ambiguity, as two different beat
classes sound equally accented and referential. (One might
characterize this as a "double beat-class tonic complex".) The
final build-up in this section (of Q6) begins by stressing
beat-class 8, as did its beat-class-set homonym Q3. Because
the F4 attacked then is not strongly accented, however, the
beat-class tonic stays on 4. However, at R32 a beginning accent on beat-class 0, reinforced by a grouping parallelism
with R21 and by the multiplicity of coincident accents in the
other voices, changes the beat-class tonic. A t the end of the
passage, then, formal closure is achieved as both the pitchclass and the beat-class modes return to their original states.
The theory of beat-class mode thus enables one to describe rhythmic direction and goals. Accordingly, it provides a
means of answering the questions about Reich's post-phase
music, raised above, which cannot be addressed by an "atonal"
theory of beat-class sets. Through it we understand that the
purpose of combining beat-class sets is not to achieve the
beat-class aggregate, but to create a progression of beat-class
tonics across large spans of time, taking advantage of the
modes shared by the pattern combinations. T h e notion of
rhythmic closure takes on the precise sense of a return to the


bc: 0




2223 0

2.5 (200~)
4 5 6
(measures 24 beats into four equal durations)





p streams


(measures 24 beats into three equal durations)

9. Accent andpulse streams at R44 ofNew York Counterpoint.

original beat-class tonic and mode, as at a tonal cadence.

Variations in patterns themselves are understood as part of
the modulatory process, when combinations of exact beatclass transpositions do not ~ r o v i d ethe clarity of mode and
tonic required for these large formal processes. So are the irand Q6 are built up in
regular build-ups; for example,
the same way as Q2 and Q3 because they play similar roles
in shifting emphasis from beat-class 0 to beat-classes 4 and
8, respectively. Finally, the choice of pitch-transposition of a
tenth from earlier to later patterns can be explained as the
best one to minimize interference with the establishment of
subcollection-shift accents, while introducing a lower register in which accents can act to change both pitch-class and
beat-class tonics.

A remarkable feature of the densely imitative web that

Reich weaves in this movement is the persistent clarity of
the (8,0,4} pulse stream and of the tripartite mode in which
it measures the patterns' time spans. However, the composer
does not always prefer to maintain a constant meter. Indeed,

the opening of the second movement of the same work, New

York Counterpoint, confronts the listener immediately with a
very dynamic modality. Example 9 analyzes accent and pulse
streams in the passage, which repeats a pattern lasting 24
sixteenth notes. T h e brackets above and below the score
show that two pulse streams with different durations are articulated concurrently by regular accent. T h e dotted-quarter
pulse stream arises principally from accents of subcollection
shift, while accents of duration and beginning (supported by
slurs) coordinate to produce the half-note pulse stream.
Neither of these streams includes the tonic (0, accented intensely by duration, contour and pulse), but they are synchronized so that they measure the pattern's time span into
equal durations both triply and quadruply. T h e metrical
ambiguity created by the pattern's artful accentual design
deepens as the movement develops.
Its largest-scale consequences are not manifested, however, until the last movement of New York Counterpoint,
when both pitch-class and beat-class modes and tonics undergo gradual asynchronous changes. T h e modulations are
most strilung in the excerpt shown in Example 10. At R70

Pitch-class collection 2

Pitch-class collection 1

PCcontent ofcanonic voice pairs at R70 [sounding Bb = 01


live and 4:

{ 8 B 3


j collections
{B,1,3,5,7,8) [{B,1,3,5,7,81-!

2 and 5:
3 and 6:
9 and 10:





in common


at R71


J = ca. 184


O. stream
Beat-class mode 1


E X A M P L E 10.Pitch-class







and beat-class modulations in the third rnoweme?ztofNew York Counterpoint.

a dux trio of clarinets (notated on the top staff) is chased in

canon by a comes trio (notated on the second staff) at the
quarter-note unison.24 O n the lower staves, two bass clar24

A few added notes lend some flair to the live clarinet part, but this augmentation of the beat-class collection does not affect the mode or tonic.

inets synchronize their changes of pitch class but are nevertheless also in rhythmic canon, as will be shown below. The
low Eb in clarinet 10 acts as the pitch-class tonic, casting
the segment in the mode of an ~b~ chord with a raised fifth
and eleventh. The table above the score lists the pitch-class
content of each canonically related pair of instruments. At


Pitch-class collection 1

(Pitch-class collection 2)





R71 all voices continue to repeat the same rhythms, but

pitch-class content changes in every pair-except for the
registrally and dynamically most prominent pair, live + 4. Its
pitch classes, along with pitch-class 9 in the bass, constitute
the entire set of pitch classes held in common between R70
and R71-that is, they serve as a "pivot" for the modulation
to the
collection in R71. At R73 the pitch-class collection reverts to that of R70.
During this passage the beat-class mode also shifts
through slight rhythmic changes, whose disproportionate effect derives from the elegant rhythmic structure of the repeated 24-beat patterns. This structure is analyzed in Example 11, which displays the transpositional relations of
beat-class sets within and among the voices. For instance,
the quarter-note interval of imitation between the dux and
comes trios at R71 (and R70), mentioned above, is expressed
by the labels on the right side of the example, which show
that the beat-class set of the comes trio is t, of the beat-class


T J. stream

10. [continued]

set of clarinets 2 and 3. Similarly, the rhythmic canon in the

bass clarinets is expressed as a t8 relation between their beatclass sets. The example also reveals internal repetition within
the voices of R70-R71. The beat-class set A of clarinets 2
and 3 is composed in part of the transpositional combination
of a beat-class set x = (0,4,5,7,9} with t12(x), and the beatclass set B of clarinet 10 is composed simply of the transpositional combination of beat-class set y = {0,3,4,6,8,9) with
t12(Y).Referring back briefly to Example 10, we note that accents of contour and subcollection shift promote 0 as the
beat-class tonic. Mode arises principally from regular accents
of textural density in the bass clarinets, indicated under the
score, which create a half-note pulse stream. Example 11 expresses the source of this regularity by an equation showing
that the intersection of the bass clarinets' beat-class sets is a
set that can be generated cyclically by beat-class interval 4.
Beat-class modulation begins in R72. As Example 11
shows, the rhythms of the upper voices and of bass clarinet




4 5
4 5 6 7
6 7




11 12

8 9

4 5
3 4

16 17
16 17 18 19
11 1 3 1 4
18 19




4 5
4 5 6 7
6 7

3 4

10 11
8 9

11 1 3 1 4

5 6



21 22
21 22 23



15 16

t , n
~ t , =~[0,4,8,12,16,20)

16 17
16 17 18 19
18 19


tOAU (6,18,23)

20 21



21 22
21 22 23

16 17
15 16



20 21

t,A U (6,18,23)

n (t,B U [o)) = (



7 8

4 5
0 1 2 3 4 5
0 1



3 4


6 7
8 9



11 12

21 22
19 20 21 22

14 15

15 16

16 17
16 17


18 19
20 21

t,A U [1,3,8,10,20)


t , n
~ t , =~ (0,3,6,9,12,15,18,21}


How transposition of subsets creates the beat-class modulation in R71-73.

10 continue those of R71, and only the temporal imitation

between the bass clarinets shifts, from t8 to t2, thus matching
the time delay in the upper-voice canon. But this slight
change affects the beat-class mode by breaking up the preceding half-note pulse stream. This is symbolized by the
dashed brackets under R72 in Example 10, and is also evident in Example 11,which shows that the intersection of the
beat-class sets of bass clarinets 9 and 10-the low-register

accents of textural density-can

no longer be generated
cyclically by beat-class interval 4. (Clarinet 9 adds an extra
attack to its pattern, at beat-class 0, to keep the tonic clear.)
This modal uncertainty proves transitory. A t R73, when
the pitch-class content reverts to that of R70, the beat-class
accentuation changes directly to another mode, again by
simply changing the interval of imitation. T h e outer voices,
clarinets 2/3 and 10, continue to present the same rhythms



as they have done since R70. However, the beat-class set of

clarinets 4,5, and 6 changes from t2 to t3 of clarinets 2 and 3,
and the beat-class set of clarinet 9 also changes from t2 to t3
of the clarinet 10-that is the comes voices increase their
delay by one beat. Now the beat-class sets of the bass clarinets, whose intersection was a 4-cycle at R71 and a symmetrical but noncyclic beat-class set at R72, intersect in a 3cycle at R73. The audible result is a new dotted-quarter-note
pulse stream, symbolized by the bracket under R73 in
Example 10, that creates a 12/8 meter. Thus the beat-class
modulation from R71 to R73 is achieved with the utmost
minimum of means. I t is mediated by the set of beat classes
at R72 that the two modes have in common, exactly analogous to the common-tone modulation between the pitchclass collections in the passage.

Other recent compositions by Reich contain many similar

passages, in which slight but structurally telling changes to
patterns and their imitative relations create formally significant modulations of pitch- and beat-class. They are most
impressive in his works for large ensemble that juggle several
different patterns at once. Consider, as a final example, the
opening of the last movement of The Four Sections (for orchestra, 1987). A t different paces and times during this introduction four different patterns are built up, each of which
is distinguished by instrumentation, register, durational content, and attack density. Example 12 displays their completed forms and analyzes their beat-class-combinational
Starting at R111, middle register strings and mallet instruments build up a predominantly eighth-note rhythm into
a two-line beat-class canon, fully completed at R122, in
which one voice lags three eighth-notes behind the other.
From R113-R120 trumpets 1 and 3 build up an apparently
unrelated pattern, which features a variety of durations, yet
also suggests an exact pitch and beat-class canon, without ex-


plicitly stating it.25 In the percussion, brass, and low instruments at R115 a build-up begins of a different, noncanonic
pattern, completed at R124. All three of these patterns are 20
eighth notes long. Lastly, at R118 the high strings and winds
build up a pattern twice as long-40 eighth notes-featuring
very long durations; this resolves into a tlo canon at R125.
Within this complex, asynchronous aggregation of discrete patterns, beat-class mode and tonic fluctuate in a controlled and progressive manner. The build-up starting at
R111, analyzed in Example 13(a), has two principal formal
functions. First, it clearly establishes the beat-class tonic:
beat-class 0 takes the most accent, and 0 is the first beat class
to mark a regularly recurring duration (20 eighths, the duration of most of the patterns). Second, this passage also establishes a distinctive beat-class mode, but only after raising
several mutually incompatible possibilities. Initially, accents
on beat-classes 16, 0, 4, and 8 project a series of half-note
durations. However, this potential half-note pulse stream is
vitiated at R112 by the shifting of accent to beat-classes
(0,3,6,9}, which suggest a dotted-quarter pulse stream incommensurate with both the half notes and the 20-eighth
duration of the patterns. At R113 the first trumpet's attacks
measure the 20 eighths into two equal durations, suggesting
a regular five-quarter pulse stream, likewise incompatible
with the previously suggested possibilities. Finally, at R114
the next stage in the string-vibraphone build-up establishes
consistent accent on beat-classes (0,6,10,16]-not a regular
pulse, but still distinctive and persistent enough to serve as
the beat-class mode.
As in New York Counterpoint, beat-class modulation begins as soon as mode and tonic are secured. A t R115 (Example 13[b]) clusters in the pianos and trombones strongly

To see the canon, compare the two trumpet parts starting at the repeated, accented eighth-note Es. In each part, there follows a quarter
rest, then a half-note D#,then eighth-notes C # and F#,separated by an
eighth rest.

Vib. 1,
Vn. 2

{0.1,2,3,5,6,7,8,10,11,12,13,15,16,17,18]= X

Vib. 2,

{0,1,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,13,14,15.16.18,19]= t13(X)


Tpt. 1

Tpt. 3




Tpt. 1

{0,10,20,28,30}= Y

Tpt. 3

{0,10,20,30,38}= tlO(Y)


Patterns in the opening of thefourth movement of The Four Sections.

accent beat-class 10. As this beat class belongs to the established mode, and since the mode is transpositionally invariant at tlo, the tonicity of beat-class 0 begins to falter. By
R117 the further build-ups of the patterns cooperate to accent beat-class 10 far more than beat-class 0, making the
modulation definite. Thus, the entrance of the high strings
in R118 sounds metrically strong, even though it is notated
on a different beat than the beginning of the pattern in

After this new beat-class tonic is established, however,

the completion of the build-ups in R120-R124 and the
pitch variations in the highest parts provide new accents.
The completed canon in the middle strings and mallet instruments emphasizes both beat-classes 0 and 10. The low
instruments also accent both of these beat classes. Starting at
R120, the high
- instruments place contour accents on two
different points of the 40-eighth-note spans, but up until
R125 (see the upper system in Example 13[c]), these always


bc tonic:



p. stream?-

- 9-- - - 3 - - - _

_:- -? - -

Vn. 2, Va.

Vib. 1,2


*(S in highest voice only)


Vn. 2, Va.

Vib. 1, 2









bc mode: (0.
(that IS,







(a) Gradual constitution of beat-class tonic and mode.


13. The Four Sections,fourth movement.

fall on beat-class 10, the tonic of the faster underlying patterns. Nevertheless, at R125 (lower system) the climax accents relocate to 0, preparing to return to the original beatclass tonic at the large change of pitch-class content and bass
patterns at R126.

I n all the analyses of Reich's music presented above,

change of beat-class mode and tonic depends crucially on
the accentual details of the repeated patterns. In this respect
they support previous discoveries that large-scale design expresses intrinsic properties of the small-scale patterns, and
extend that result to the larger body of Reich's works that

do not exhaustively phase repeated patterns. Yet they show

further that apparently unsystematic aspects of Reich's compositional designs-how the patterns are built up, varied,
placed in pitch registers, and transposed-in fact coordinate
accents efficiently to create large-scale formal processes of
pitch and rhythm as well as of texture. Each build-up is
crafted carefully for its particular formal function-just
enough time is spent, with just the right events, to attain a
distinctive and formally functional modal state, and then the
patterns change. Thus by modeling rhythm "modally," not
simply "atonally," we can better appreciate Reich's craft, and
account for the otherwise incompatible qualities of efficiency
and variety in his highly repetitive music.

bc tonic changes
to, l o
increasing accent
Vn. 2, Va.
Vib. 1, 2


the modulation has prepared for

the entrance of the violins on the
local bc tonic





Vn. 2, Va.
Vib. 1,2




> >



et al.

(b) Modulation to beat class 10.


13. [continued]

- .

> >

MUSIC T H E O R Y SPECTRUM 25 ( 2 0 0 3 )

Bc 10persists as tonic


Vn. 2,Va.,
Vib. 1 , 2

- .




Accent on bcs 0 and 10 equalizes




(c) Modulation back to beat class 0.


13. [continued]

O n this bc 0:
the pc collection changes
the bass pattern changes
violins give the strongest contour
and durational accents so far







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Beat-Class Modulation in Steve Reich's Music
John Roeder
Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 25, No. 2. (Autumn, 2003), pp. 275-304.
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Twelve-Tone Rhythmic Structure and the Electronic Medium
Milton Babbitt
Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 1, No. 1. (Autumn, 1962), pp. 49-79.
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The Horrors of Identification: Reich's "Different Trains"

Naomi Cumming
Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 35, No. 1. (Winter, 1997), pp. 129-152.
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Fuzzy Extensions to the Theory of Contour

Ian Quinn
Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 19, No. 2. (Autumn, 1997), pp. 232-263.
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Interacting Pulse Streams in Schoenberg's Atonal Polyphony

John Roeder
Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 16, No. 2. (Autumn, 1994), pp. 231-249.
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Steve Reich: Music as a Gradual Process: Part I

K. Robert Schwarz
Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 19, No. 1/2. (Autumn, 1980 - Summer, 1981), pp. 373-392.
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