Happy Birthday, Steve Reich (Disquiet Junto Project 0249)

Disquiet Junto Project 0249: 80 Phases
Wish the minimalist composer Steve Reich a happy birthday.

Major thanks to Neil Stringfellow for proposing and helping to craft this project.

Project Steps:

Step 1: October 3 marked the 80th birthday of composer Steve Reich. Prepare to record a tribute to him.

Step 2: Select a short segment of sound or music that can be looped and, per Reich’s own technique, “phased.” Fortunately, the song “Happy Birthday” has entered the public domain. Consider using it.

Step 3: Take the segment from Step 2 and play it on repeat, layering the loop with slightly different timing to create a phasing effect. Play around with this, editing the loops until you have some successful or interesting sounds/accidents.

Step 4: Add some extra sounds or textures if you think the piece needs it.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0249” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In this discussion thread on llllllll.co please consider posting your track. (Assuming you post it on SoundCloud, a search for the tag will help me construct the playlist.)

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, October 6, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, October 10, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you. Four minutes feels about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0249” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 249th weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Wish the minimalist composer Steve Reich a happy birthday” — at:


More on the Disquiet Junto at:


Subscribe to project announcements here:


Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:


There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

Rain image by Rory MacLeod, used thanks to a Creative Commons license:




And the project is now live.

Perfect timing! We’re releasing a new plug-in on October 17th that specializes in phased loops. I had recorded this about a month ago:




i used my favourite bandcamp glitch for this
basically when you duplicate a tab that is playing a bandcamp track it plays it at a slight delay and i wanted to see what that would sound like with a massive amount of duplicates
i played a simple 2 note phrase over and over with not too many fx but 3 different oscillators
in bandcamp i’d play one duplicate the tab wait for that to start playing and duplicate again over the course of ~3.5 minutes
i wanted to get up to 80 tabs but only made it to 42 (the previous attempts were in the 30s)
weirdly when it got to 7 or 8 tabs open it would hang trying to find a socket but then once it had it would get thru the next 30 no hassle

some different versions here: https://archive.org/details/dsq249phze31


I hope it doesn’t rain on Steve Reichs Birthday…

Well I tried to make my track as true to a Steve Reich track as my limited talent allows. I first found out how to play the Happy Birthday tune and recorded that. I used the loop brace in Ableton to find a nice loop of the piano and started opening up extra tracks, putting it each loop a few fractions of a second further along in time - I am guessing the phasing technique works in fractions of seconds? This worked but started sounding muddy after a few too many layers. Anyway I messed around and got the first 2 minutes or so done in under an hour. For some reason I then added a field recording at the start of the piece, just some leaves rustling in the wind as I have been doing a lot of field recording this week. Well after that I thought about the classic Steve Reich tape works of the 1960s and so I recorded a voice message which comes in about 2 and a half minutes, I couldn’t resist giving a nod to Reich’s “Its Gonna Rain”! After playing around with the voice and adding loads of extra layered loops I brought the piano back in and further fragmented the loops, trying to make some classic sounding rhythmic phasing just like you hear on the great Reich pieces. I had a total of 30 channels running which is the most I had open and all playing at once. I did a mixdown and then opened up 5 versions of this mix and started putting a few short sections of these mixdowns a few fractions of a second apart creating another level of phasing. That was it. It took about 3 hours in total.



Quick and dirty today. Eight tracks of a simple loop, each track offset by a different amount. Tracks have a little processing, different for each and EQ applied to emphasise different frequencies. Added percussion tracks.




Took samples from a bootleg recording of “Birthday” done by Very Famous British group. Overlaid the samples looping at differing intervals for that minute-Reich “phasing” effect.

Music for 18 Remixes.



I did a rough version of this in Ableton Live, and the raw recordings used come from that attempt.

After messing around and thinking about the parameters a bit I moved over to Logic. I’d been listening to a lot of Reich the last couple weeks and thinking about his techniques. It bothered me that this disquiet project rested on a technique that Reich had pretty much abandoned by the time he came to a greater prominence. I went with the phasing anyway. I recently came back to Logic after rejecting it a bit, and the counter-intuitive ways it deals with clips and loops informed my placement of tracks. I didn’t have a good grasp of the length I was playing with and the piece ended up about twice as long as planned. At the last minute I layered in and pealed back twice as many tracks and that’s when things got much more interesting. The whole thing felt a bit stupid, but it was an interesting exercise.



Had to participate this week, it’s been a while - I wanted to try the “original” It’s Gonna Rain approach, so I recorded a short speech expressing my appreciation - looped the last part on two tracks, slightly panned, one side slowed a bit, repeated until they lined up again…

1 Like

Great textures and wonderful p(h)ace

1 Like

main is m4l’s effect. here is how to make it.
9:00~ that is working. Thanks Kei Kusama.

metro_ooedo のコピー.amxd (35 KB)

My first time here… hope this works …


Here’s my attempt. My initial aim was to try and and recreate the phenomena where a tune will appear out of the notes as they phase and certain notes are highlighted - and have that effectively ‘sing’ happy birthday in the middle of the piece. However, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it to work properly, and it always sounded dirge-like and not at all celebratory, so I ditched that idea, quaint as it was. I settled on using the opening notes from Happy Birthday (without the repeated first note), adding a couple of extra notes to make it sound more ‘celebratory’. This is modular synth, two voices set up to sound like xylophones, with two identical sequencers running at slightly different speeds. I would have liked to have had the speed difference to be even less, so that the phases took longer, but not everyone enjoys Steve Reich’s music (my wife and cats included), so I compromised a little and kept it below 6 mins!



Love this! So cute, and very authentic sounding.

Well, they say 42 is the meaning of life :slight_smile:

1 Like

thank you :wink: listening to the modular now ! Love modularsounds …


segment taken from Timothy Morton - Human Thought at Earth Magnitude - Dark Ecology 2014 lecture: vimeo.com/111526063

Gets pretty funky near the end.


So awesome you could join in, sir. Excelsior!

Some good responses so far. Some focusing on the sound and the feel of Reich, others on the structure or process. My piece is of the latter type - process-based. It’s actually modelled on ‘Twin Bleebs’ by Ø, so it doesn’t sound much like Reich but it is certainly influenced by his methods.

By chance, there’s a nice blog post today on the original release of Reich’s ‘Drumming’ LP. Sounds great: https://blogthehum.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/the-original-1972-release-of-steve-reichs-drumming-issued-by-john-gibson-and-multiples-inc/

Now gonna dig into the new album from NMO, which has a lot of Drumming in it.