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Steve Reich
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Steve Reich

Steve Reich (born October 3, 1936) is one of the most famous living composers, who is popularly regarded as repetitive and minimalist, but in some works deviates from a purely minimalist style. 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.

Reich's music explores such ideas in contemporary music as using tape loops to create phasing patterns - amongst Reich's first works, It's Gonna Rain, Come Out, Drumming, and others, 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 particularly influenced by A. M. Jones' 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 to start writing more elaborate pieces. He moved on to 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. This work is unique in the context of Reich's other pieces in the way that is in linear as opposed to being 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, 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". Reich also noted that this one work contained more harmonic movement in the first five minutes then any other work he had written.

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:

See also John Adams, Philip Glass, Terry Riley.

External links