Clapping Music


Steve Reich's Clapping Music (1972) is a short piece "For two pairs of clapping hands". The first player claps a fixed rhythm of 8 eighth notes distributed over 12 beats, repeating it over and over again. The second player starts off by clapping unisono but, after 12 repeats of the rhythm, skips a beat and continues clapping the same fixed rhythm but one beat out of sync. This skipping process is repeated 11 more times until both players are again clapping together and the piece ends. In the words of Steve Reich: "Not every piece I write is perfect, but this one, it's perfect".

This was the inspiration for my

Small Clicking Machine (1986)

a zigzag line representing the rhythm
My Small Clicking Machine plays a different rhythm (above) and the skips between the two players - the left and right clickers - are of random length.
    After 7 repeats the left ratchet is pulled back by the clutch solenoid, disengaging the connecting pin and then releasing it, randomly reuniting it with the right ratchet.
    The timing is regulated by gears driving two cams that operate micro-switches. The machine turns itself off after 7 variations.
The resonator (top) is a 39cm long black wooden box.
close up of the clicking machine

7 rhythms, 2 repeated.

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