His name is an inevitable entry in the roll call of American Minimalist composers. Steve Reich, along with Philip Glass, Terry Riley, LaMonte Young, and others defined a new wave of art music in the latter half of the twentieth century,... [more]
His name is an inevitable entry in the roll call of American Minimalist composers. Steve Reich, along with Philip Glass, Terry Riley, LaMonte Young, and others defined a new wave of art music in the latter half of the twentieth century, one that deliberately rejected the knotty complexities of its European forebears. Reich, a New York native, initially studied music at Julliard, then at Mills College in California, the latter a magnetic pole for musical experimenters and iconoclasts. Like Darius Milhaud (one of Reich's instructors at Mills), Reich incorporated techniques gleaned from world music (he studied polyrhythmic drumming in Ghana in 1970 and later was influenced by percussive gamelan orchestras of Bali).
The first pieces of Reich's music to gain notoriety during the '60s utilize both repetition and process as the subject -- rather than simply the starting point -- of the piece. This trait shows itself in the swinging microphones suspended over speaker cabinets of his "Pendulum Music." Or in Reich's sonic moir' patterns generated by phase patterns between two tape loops running simultaneously, one slightly shorter than the other ("Come Out" and "It's Gonna Rain," from '65 and '66 respectively). During this period, Reich also founded his own ensemble, which has subsequently grown from a trio to 18 members.
From 1976 to 1977, Reich studied the traditional forms of cantillation (chanting) of the Hebrew scriptures. In the mid-1970s, his epic "Drumming" was released as a multi-disc set by Deutsche Grammaphon. A later re-recording of the piece was issued by the American label Nonesuch, which has also put out 1988's "Different Trains" (a tribute to the composer's adolescent experience shuttling between his divorced parents' homes on cross-country railroad trips). The recording of "Different Trains" by the Kronos Quartet earned Reich a Grammy Award in 1990. Nonesuch also released a ten-disc retrospective box set, "Steve Reich Works: 1965-1995," comprising both previously released material and new recordings.
Reich has collaborated on multimedia projects with a variety of artists. His music has been used by numerous choreographers, including Jerome Robbins, Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Maurice Bejart, Lucinda Childs, and Laura Dean. His 1993 theatrical project with Beryl Korot, "The Cave," explored the Biblical story of Abraham.
Major orchestras around the world perform Reich's music, with many of the pieces the result of significant commissions. Steve Reich was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1994. [show less]