Steve Reich (born October 3, 1936) is an American composer. He is popularly regarded as repetitive and minimalist, but in some works deviates from a purely minimalist style, which shows some connection to Minimalism and the work of Reich's artist friends such as Sol Lewitt and Richard Serra. His style of music has influenced many others including the group of composers associated with the Bang On A Can festival, such as David Lang, but also visual artists including Bruce Nauman.
Reich's music explores such ideas in contemporary music as using tape loops to create phasing patterns Ś amongst Reich's first works, It's Gonna Rain, Come Out, Drumming, and others Ś and using processes to create and explore concepts in music (Pendulum Music, Four Organs).
Reich achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University in 1957, attended the Juilliard School and, from 1961 to 1963, Mills College in Oakland, California with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud. His works, particularly Drumming (1971), show the influence of African music, Reich being especially influenced by A. M. Jones's Studies in African Music about Ghanian Ewe music. Eventually he travelled to Ghana to study drumming. He also studied Balinese gamelan in Seattle.
After Drumming, Reich moved on from the 'phase shifting' technique that he had pioneered, and began writing more elaborate pieces. He investigated other musical processes such as augmentation (the temporal lengthening of phrases and melodic fragments). It was during this period that he wrote works such as Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973) and Four Organs.
Four Organs deals specifically with augmentation, and was based on a piece written in 1967, Slow Motion Sound, which was more of a prototype piece. Having never been performed, the idea of slowing down a recorded sound until many times its original length without changing pitch or timbre was applied to Four Organs. The result was a piece with maracas playing a fast quaver pulse, while the four organs stress certain quavers using an 11th chord. This work therefore dealt with rhythmic change and repetition. It is unique in the context of Reich's other pieces in being linear as opposed to cyclic like his earlier works.
In 1974, Reich began writing what would be classed as his seminal work by most, Music for 18 Musicians. This piece involved a lot of new ideas, although it harked back to earlier pieces. The piece is based around a cycle of eleven chords introduced at the beginning, followed by a small piece of music based around each chord, and finally a return to the original cycle. The sections are aptly named 'Pulses', Section I-XI, and 'Pulses'. This was Reich's first attempt at writing for larger ensembles, and the extension of performers resulted in a growth of psycho-acoustic effects, which fascinated Reich, and he noted that he would like to 'explore this idea further'. Reich remarked that this one work contained more harmonic movement in the first five minutes then any other work he had written.
Later that same year he published a book, Writings About Music, containing essays on his philosophy, aesthetics, and musical projects written between 1963 and 1974. An updated collection, Writings On Music (1965-2000), was published in 2002.
In 1993, Reich collaborated with his wife, the video artist Beryl Korot, on the opera, The Cave, which explores the roots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The two collaborated again on the opera Three Tales, which concerns the Hindenburg disaster, the testing of nuclear weapons on Bikini Atoll, and more modern concerns, specifically Dolly the sheep and cloning.
Notable works include:
It's Gonna Rain (1965)
Come Out (1966)
Piano Phase (1967)
Violin Phase (1967)
Pendulum Music (1968)
Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973)
Music for 18 Musicians (1974-76)
Music for a Large Ensemble (1978)
Octet (1979) - arranged for ensemble as Eight Lines (1983)
Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards (1979)
Six Pianos (1973) - Transcribed as Six Marimbas (1986)
The Desert Music (1984)
Electric Counterpoint (1987)
Different Trains (1988)
City Life (1995)
Triple Quartet (1998)
Three Tales (1998-2002)
You Are (Variations) (2004)
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has created choreography to Reich's works which he has expressed admiration for.
La Monte Young
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