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Music for 18 Musicians
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Music for 18 Musicians

Music for 18 Musicians is a seminal work of musical minimalism composed by Steve Reich during 1974-1976. Its World Premiere was on April 24, 1976 at Town Hall, New York. Following this, a recording of the piece was released by ECM Recordings. A recording of the opening sections is on Reich's website (see bottom).

Music for 18 Musicians was written for a cello, violin, two clarinets (one player doubles on bass clarinet), four pianos, three marimbas, two xylophones, a metallophone and four women's voices.

The piece is based around a cycle of eleven chords, then a small piece of music is based around each chord, then returning to the original cycle at the end. The sections are aptly named "Pulses", Section I-X, and "Pulses". This was Reich's first attempt at writing for larger ensembles, and the extension of performers resulted in a growth of pyscho-acoustic effects, which fascinated Reich, and he noted that he would like to "explore this idea further". A prominent factor in this work is the augmentation of the harmonies and melodies and the way that they develop this piece. Another important factor in the piece is the use of human breath, used on the bass clarinets, which help structure the piece, along with the metallophone (unplugged vibraphone), which bring a pulse to the piece. The player plays the pulsing note for as long as he can hold it, while each chord is melodically deconstructed by the ensemble, along with augmentation of the notes held.

Each section of the piece has an ABCDCBA structure, and Reich noted that this one work contained more harmonic movement in the first five minutes then any other work he had written.

There have been many performances of the piece, and the main recordings include the original ECM version played by Steve Reich & Musicians, the Ensemble Modern, and the Nonesuch version, played by Reich and musicians along with new musicians. The most recent recording to be released was in 2004 by the Amadinda Percussion Group released on the Hungaroton label. The performance is a live recording from Budapest, and has been described as faithful and excellent by many, as well as Reich himself. Even though it is an older recording, it was only released recently.

See also Music for a Large Ensemble, Tehillim, Octet, Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ, Piano Phase, The Desert Music.

External links