Steve Reich: A Lasting Influence

Better Essays
Steve Reich

Alongside Young, Riley, and Glass, Steve Reich is a lofty name in the formation of American minimalistic music (Mertens, 11). Throughout the 1960s, these composers helped push the boundaries of music as they fused elements of classical, jazz, rock/pop, and world music.

Steve Reich was born in New York on October 3, 1936. His parents soon divorced, leaving Reich to constantly commute between New York and California via passenger train. Reich has stated that is was the sound of the wheels on the train tracks that helped to develop his strong rhythmic sense at an early age (Ross, 541). He studied philosophy at Cornell University with a minor in music before switching to composition full-time at Juilliard School and Mills College with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud (Mertens, 47). Although both great composers, Reich didn’t fit well within either of their styles. In the early seventies, Reich studied with a drummer of the Ewe tribe in Ghana and participated in a Balinese gamelan seminar where he began to develop a strong concordance with world music. This influence is clearly evident in many of Reich’s compositions.

Reich’s first major breakthrough as a composer was by accident as he was experimenting with tape loops of spoken dialogue. If two identical tapes were played back at slightly different speeds, the result would be a very gradual phasing and the creation of additional harmonies and rhythms as the two lined up at various positions. Eventually, the two clips would line up again, signaling the end of the composition. In his essay, “Music as a Gradual Process,” Reich states, “I am interested in perceptible processes. I want to be able to hear the process happening throughout the sounding music.” (...

... middle of paper ...

...007. Ann Arbor: ProQuest Information and Learning Company, 2008. ProQuest. Web. 23 Mar. 2010.

Koch, Gerhard R. "Reich's 'The Desert Music'" Tempo No. 149 (1984): 44-46. JSTOR. Web. 28 Mar. 2010.

Mertens, Wim. American Minimal Music: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass. London: Kahn & Averill U.a., 1983. Print.

Reich, Steve. “Music as a Gradual Process,” Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials, ed. James Monte and Marcia Tucker

Reich, Steve. The Desert Music. Hendon Music, Inc. (A Boosey & Hawkes Company), U.S.A. 1985.

Reich, Steve. Writings about Music. Halifax: Nova Scotia Coll.of Art & Design P., 1974. Print.

Ross, Alex. The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. New York: Picador, 2008. Print.

Tick, Judith, and Paul E. Beaudoin. Music in the USA: a Documentary Companion. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.
Get Access