City Life Steve Reich Descriptive Essay - Essay for you

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City Life Steve Reich Descriptive Essay

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City Life, Steve Reich

Ressources .ircam City Life (1995)
  • Informations générales
    • Date de composition. 1995
    • Durée. 24 minutes
    • Éditeur. Boosey & Hawkes
    • Commande: Ensemble intercontemporain, Ensemble Modern et London Sinfonietta
  • Genre
    • Musique instrumentale d'ensemble [Ensemble instrumental mixte de 10 à 25 instruments ]
Effectif détaillé
  • 2 flûte, 2 hautbois, 2 clarinette, 3 percussionniste [ou 4]. 2 piano, 2 clavier électronique/MIDI/synthétiseur [sampling keyboards]. violon, violon II, alto, violoncelle, contrebasse

Information sur la création

  • 7 March 1995, France, Metz, Arsenal, par l'Ensemble intercontemporain, direction. David Robertson.

Note de programme

The idea that any sound may be used as part of a piece of music as been in the air during much of the 20th Century. From the use of taxi horns in Gershwin’s An American in Paris through Varese ’s sirens, Antheil’s airplane propeller, Cage ’s radio, and rock and roll’s use of all of the above and more starting at least in the 1970s, and more recently in rap music, the desire to include everyday sounds in music has been growing. The sampling keyboard now makes this a practical reality. In City Life not only samples of speech but also car horns, door slam, air brakes, subway chimes, pile driver, car alarms, heartbeats, boat horns, buoys, fire and police sirens are part of the fabric of the piece.

In contrast to my earlier Different Trains (1988) and The Cave (1993) the prerecorded sounds here are played live in performance on two sampling keyboards. There is no tape used in performance. This brings back the usual small flexibility of tempo that is hallmark of live performance. It also extends the idea of prepared piano since the sampling keyboards are ‘loaded’ with sounds, many recorded by myself in New York City. These different non-musical sounds also suggest certain instrumental responses. Thus woodwinds for car horns, bass drum for door slams, cymbal for air brakes, clarinets for boat horns and several different instrumental doublings for speech melodies.

City Life is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 pianos, 2 samplers, 3 (or 4) percussion and string quartet. Like several earlier works, it is an arch form A-B-C-B-A. The first and last movements use speech samples as part of the musical fabric and both feel like ‘fast’ movements though the actual tempo of the first is moderate and the fairly rapid tempo of the last movement is harder to perceive because of the many sustained sounds. The harmonies leading to E-flat or C minor is the chorale that opens and closes the first movement reappear in the fifth movement in a more dissonant voicing and finally resolve to C minor which then ambiguously ends as either a C dominant or C minor chord. The second and fourth movements do not use any speech whatsoever. Instead, each uses a rhythmic sample that determines the tempo. In the second it is a pile driver, in the fourth, heartbeats. Both start slow and increase speed. In the second this is only because the pile driver moves from quarter notes, to eighths and then to triplets. In the fourth movement the heartbeats gradually get faster in each of the four sections of the movement. Both movements are harmonically based on the same cycle of four dominant chords. The third and central movement begins with only speech samples played by the two sampler players. When this duet has been fully built up, the rest of the strings, winds and percussion enter to double the pitches and rhythms of the interlocking speech samples. This central movement may well remind listeners of my early tape pieces It’s Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966).

City Life is tripartite commission from the Ensemble Modern, the London Sinfonietta, and the Ensemble Intercontemporain. It is approximately 24 minutes in duration. The five movements are as follow:

  1. Check it out
  2. Pile driver/alarms
  3. It’s been a honeymoon – can’t take no mo’
  4. Heartbeats/boats & buoys
  5. Heavy smoke

The speech samples in the 5th movement are:

"Heavy smoke"
"stand by, stand by"
"it’s full ‘a smoke"
"full a’ smoke""urgent" etc.

"Guns, knives or weapons on ya’?"
"Wha’ were ya’ doin’?"

"Be careful,"
"where you go"
"careful"
"stand by, stand by"
"careful"
"stand by"

Other articles

Steve Reich

Steve Reich - biography

Stephen Michael “Steve” Reich (pronounced /ˈraɪʃ/; born October 3, 1936) is an American composer who pioneered the style of minimalist music. His innovations include using tape loops to create phasing patterns (examples are his early compositions, "It's Gonna Rain" and "Come Out"), and the use of simple, audible processes to explore musical concepts (for instance, "Pendulum Music" and "Four Organs"). These compositions, marked by their use of repetitive figures, slow harmonic rhythm and canons, have significantly influenced contemporary music, especially in the US. Reich's work took on a darker character in the 1980s with the introduction of historical themes as well as themes from his Jewish heritage, notably the Grammy Award-winning Different Trains.

Reich's style of composition influenced many other composers and musical groups. Reich has been described by The Guardian as one of "a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history", and the critic Kyle Gann has said Reich "may. be considered, by general acclamation, America's greatest living composer." On January 25, 2007, Reich was named the 2007 recipient of the Polar Music Prize, together with jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins. On April 20, 2009, Reich was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Double Sextet.

Career Early life

Reich was born in New York City to the Broadway lyricist June Sillman. When he was one year old, his parents divorced, and Reich divided his time between New York and California. He was given piano lessons as a child and describes growing up with the "middle-class favorites", having no exposure to music written before 1750 or after 1900. At the age of 14 he began to study music in earnest, after hearing music from the Baroque period and earlier, as well as music of the 20th century. Reich studied drums with Roland Kohloff in order to play jazz. While attending Cornell University, he took some music courses, but he graduated in 1957 with a B.A. in Philosophy. Reich's B.A. thesis was on Ludwig Wittgenstein; later he would set texts by that philosopher to music in Proverb (1995) and You Are (variations) (2006).

For a year following graduation, Reich studied composition privately with Hall Overton before he enrolled at Juilliard to work with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti (1958–1961). Subsequently he attended Mills College in Oakland, California, where he studied with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud (1961–1963) and earned a master's degree in composition. At Mills, Reich composed Melodica for melodica and tape, which appeared in 1986 on the three-LP release Music from Mills.

Reich worked with the California Tape Music Centre along with Pauline Oliveros, Ramon Sender, Morton Subotnick, and Terry Riley. He was involved with the premiere of Riley's In C and suggested the use of the eighth note pulse, which is now standard in performance of the piece.

1960s

Reich's early forays into composition involved experimentation with twelve-tone composition, but he found the rhythmic aspects of the twelve-tone series more interesting than the melodic aspects. Reich also composed film soundtracks for Plastic Haircut, Oh Dem Watermelons, and Thick Pucker, three films by Robert Nelson. The soundtrack of Plastic Haircut, composed in 1963, was a short tape collage, possibly Reich's first. The Watermelons soundtrack used two old Stephen Foster minstrel tunes as its basis, and used repeated phrasing together in a large five-part canon. The music for Thick Pucker arose from street recordings Reich made walking around San Francisco with Nelson, who filmed in black and white 16mm. This film no longer survives. A fourth film from 1965, about 25 minutes long and tentatively entitled "Thick Pucker II", was assembled by Nelson from outtakes of that shoot and more of the raw audio Reich had recorded. Nelson was not happy with the resulting film and never showed it.

Reich was influenced by fellow minimalist Terry Riley, whose work In C combines simple musical patterns, offset in time, to create a slowly shifting, cohesive whole. Reich adopted this approach to compose his first major work, It's Gonna Rain. Written in 1965, the piece used recordings of a sermon about the end of the world given by a black Pentecostal street-preacher known as Brother Walter. Reich built on his early tape work, transferring the sermon to multiple tape loops played in and out of phase, with segments of the sermon cut and rearranged.

The 13-minute "Come Out" (1966) uses similarly manipulated recordings of a single spoken line given by Daniel Hamm, one of the falsely accused Harlem Six, who was severely injured by police. The survivor, who had been beaten, punctured a bruise on his own body to convince police about his beating. The spoken line includes the phrase "to let the bruise’s blood come out to show them." Reich rerecorded the fragment "come out to show them" on two channels, which are initially played in unison. They quickly slip out of sync; gradually the discrepancy widens and becomes a reverberation. The two voices then split into four, looped continuously, then eight, and continues splitting until the actual words are unintelligible, leaving the listener with only the speech's rhythmic and tonal patterns.

A similar, lesser known example of process music is "Pendulum Music" (1968), which consists of the sound of several microphones swinging over the loudspeakers to which they are attached, producing feedback as they do so. "Pendulum Music" has never been recorded by Reich himself, but was introduced to rock audiences by Sonic Youth in the late 1990s.

Reich's first attempt at translating this phasing technique from recorded tape to live performance was the 1967 Piano Phase, for two pianos. In Piano Phase the performers repeat a rapid twelve-note melodic figure, initially in unison. As one player keeps tempo with robotic precision, the other speeds up very slightly until the two parts line up again, but one sixteenth note apart. The second player then resumes the previous tempo. This cycle of speeding up and then locking in continues throughout the piece; the cycle comes full circle three times, the second and third cycles using shorter versions of the initial figure. Violin Phase, also written in 1967, is built on these same lines. Piano Phase and Violin Phase both premiered in a series of concerts given in New York art galleries.

Reich also tried to create the phasing effect in a piece "that would need no instrument beyond the human body". He found that the idea of phasing was inappropriate for the simple ways he was experimenting to make sound. Instead, he composed Clapping Music (1972), in which the players do not phase in and out with each other, but instead one performer keeps one line of a 12-quaver-long (12-eighth-note-long) phrase and the other performer shifts by one quaver beat every 12 bars, until both performers are back in unison 144 bars later.

The 1967 prototype piece Slow Motion Sound was never performed, but the idea it introduced of slowing down a recorded sound until many times its original length without changing pitch or timbre was applied to Four Organs (1970), which deals specifically with augmentation. The piece has maracas playing a fast eighth note pulse, while the four organs stress certain eighth notes using an 11th chord. This work therefore dealt with repetition and subtle rhythmic change. It is unique in the context of Reich's other pieces in being linear as opposed to cyclic like his earlier works— the superficially similar Phase Patterns, also for four organs but without maracas, is (as the name suggests) a phase piece similar to others composed during the period. Four Organs was performed as part of a Boston Symphony Orchestra program, and was Reich's first composition to be performed in a large traditional setting.

1970s

In 1971, Reich embarked on a five-week trip to study music in Ghana, during which he learned from the master drummer Gideon Alorwoyie. Reich also studied Balinese gamelan in Seattle. From his African experience, as well as A. M. Jones's Studies in African Music about the music of the Ewe people, Reich drew inspiration for his 90-minute piece Drumming, which he composed shortly after his return. Composed for a nine-piece percussion ensemble with female voices and piccolo, Drumming marked the beginning of a new stage in his career, for around this time he formed his ensemble, Steve Reich and Musicians, and increasingly concentrated on composition and performance with them. Steve Reich and Musicians, which was to be the sole ensemble to interpret his works for many years, still remains active with many of its original members. 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 Six Pianos (1973).

In 1974, Reich began writing what many would call his seminal work, Music for 18 Musicians. This piece involved many new ideas, although it also hearkened back to earlier pieces. It is based on a cycle of eleven chords introduced at the beginning (called "Pulses"), followed by a small section of music based on each chord ("Sections I-XI"), and finally a return to the original cycle ("Pulses"). This was Reich's first attempt at writing for larger ensembles. The increased number of performers resulted in more scope for psychoacoustic 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 than any other work he had written. Steve Reich and Musicians made the premier recording of this work on ECM Records.

Reich explored these ideas further in his frequently recorded pieces Music for a Large Ensemble (1978) and Octet (1979). In these two works, Reich experimented with "the human breath as the measure of musical duration … the chords played by the trumpets are written to take one comfortable breath to perform". Human voices are part of the musical palette in Music for a Large Ensemble but the wordless vocal parts simply form part of the texture (as they do in Drumming). With Octet and his first orchestral piece Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards (also 1979), Reich's music showed the influence of Biblical cantillation, which he had studied in Israel since the summer of 1977. After this, the human voice singing a text would play an increasingly important role in Reich's music.

“ The technique […] consists of taking pre-existing melodic patterns and stringing them together to form a longer melody in the service of a holy text. If you take away the text, you're left with the idea of putting together small motives to make longer melodies - a technique I had not encountered before. ” In 1974 Reich published a book, Writings About Music (ISBN 0814773583 ), containing essays on his philosophy, aesthetics, and musical projects written between 1963 and 1974. An updated and much more extensive collection, Writings On Music (1965–2000) (ISBN 0195111710 ), was published in 2002.

1980s

Reich's work took on a darker character in the 1980s with the introduction of historical themes as well as themes from his Jewish heritage. Tehillim (1981), Hebrew for psalms, is the first of Reich's works to draw explicitly on his Jewish background. The work is in four parts, and is scored for an ensemble of four women's voices (one high soprano, two lyric sopranos and one alto), piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, two clarinets, six percussion (playing small tuned tambourines without jingles, clapping, maracas, marimba, vibraphone and crotales), two electronic organs, two violins, viola, cello and double bass, with amplified voices, strings, and winds. A setting of texts from psalms 19:2–5 (19:1–4 in Christian translations), 34:13–15 (34:12–14), 18:26–27 (18:25–26), and 150:4–6, Tehillim is a departure from Reich's other work in its formal structure; the setting of texts several lines long rather than the fragments used in previous works makes melody a substantive element. Use of formal counterpoint and functional harmony also contrasts with the loosely structured minimalist works written previously.

Different Trains (1988), for string quartet and tape, uses recorded speech, as in his earlier works, but this time as a melodic rather than a rhythmic element. In Different Trains Reich compares and contrasts his childhood memories of his train journeys between New York and California in 1939–1941 with the very different trains being used to transport contemporaneous European children to their deaths under Nazi rule. The Kronos Quartet recording of Different Trains was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 1990. The composition was described by Richard Taruskin as "the only adequate musical response—one of the few adequate artistic responses in any medium—to the Holocaust", and he credited the piece with earning Reich a place among the great composers of the 20th century.

1990s to present

In 1993, Reich collaborated with his wife, the video artist Beryl Korot, on an opera, The Cave, which explores the roots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam through the words of Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans, echoed musically by the ensemble. The work, for percussion, voices, and strings, is a musical documentary, named for the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, where a mosque now stands and Abraham is said to have been buried. The two collaborated again on the opera Three Tales, which concerns the Hindenburg disaster, the testing of nuclear weapons on Bikini Atoll, and other more modern concerns, specifically Dolly the sheep, cloning, and the technological singularity.

As well as pieces using sampling techniques, like Three Tales and City Life (1994), Reich also returned to composing purely instrumental works for the concert hall, starting with Triple Quartet (1998) written for the Kronos Quartet that can either be performed by string quartet and tape, three string quartets or 36-piece string orchestra. According to Reich, the piece is influenced by Bartók's and Alfred Schnittke's string quartets, and Michael Gordon's Yo Shakespeare. This series continued with Dance Patterns (2002), Cello Counterpoint (2003), and sequence of works centered around Variations: You Are (Variations) (2004) (a work which looks back to the vocal writing of works like Tehillim or The Desert Music), Variations for Vibes, Pianos, and Strings (2005, for the London Sinfonietta) and Daniel Variations (2006).

Invited by Walter Fink, he was the 12th composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2002.

In an interview with The Guardian, Reich stated that he continues to follow this direction with his piece Double Sextet (2007) commissioned by eighth blackbird, an American ensemble consisting of the instrumental quintet (flute, clarinet, violin or viola, cello and piano) of Schoenberg's piece Pierrot Lunaire (1912) plus percussion. Reich states that he was thinking about Stravinsky's Agon (1957) as a model for the instrumental writing.

Reich was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Music, on April 20, 2009, for Double Sextet.

Steve Reich

Stephen Michael Reich (born October 3, 1936) is an American composer. He is a pioneer of minimalism, although his music has increasingly deviated from a purely minimalist style. Reich's innovations include using tape loops to create phasing patterns (examples are his early compositions, It's Gonna Rain and Come Out), and the use of processes to create and explore musical concepts (for instance, Pendulum Music and Four Organs). These compositions, marked by their use of repetitive figures and phasing effects, have significantly influenced contemporary music, especially that of America.

The Guardian has described Reich as one of the few composers to have "altered the direction of musical history."

On 25 January 2007, Steve Reich was named the 2007 recipient of the prestigious Polar Music Prize, together with Sonny Rollins.

Early life and work
Steve Reich was born in New York City. When he was one year old his parents divorced, and Reich divided his time between New York and California. He was given piano lessons as a child and describes growing up with the "middle-class favorites", having no exposure to music written before 1750 or after 1900. At the age of 14 he began to study music in earnest, after hearing music from the Baroque period and earlier, as well as music of the 20th century, and he began studying drums with Roland Kohloff in order to play jazz. He attended Cornell University; he took some music courses there, but graduated in 1957 with a B.A. in philosophy. Reich's B.A. thesis was on Ludwig Wittgenstein; later he would set texts by that philosopher to music in Proverb (1995) and You Are (variations) (2004).

For a year following graduation he studied composition privately with Hall Overton before he enrolled at Juilliard to work with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti (1958 to 1961). Subsequently he attended Mills College in Oakland where he studied with Luciano Berio (Reich composed a student piece for string orchestra) and Darius Milhaud (1961–63) and earned a master's degree in composition.

Reich worked with the San Francisco Tape Music Center along with Pauline Oliveros, Ramon Sender, Morton Subotnick and Terry Riley (he was involved with the premiere of Riley's "In C" and suggested the use of the eighth note pulse which is now standard in performance of the piece).

Process music and Minimalism
Reich's early forays into composition involved experimentation with twelve-tone composition, but he found the rhythmic aspects of the twelve-tone series more interesting than the melodic aspects. Reich also composed film soundtracks for The Plastic Haircut and Oh Dem Watermelons, two films by Robert Nelson. The soundtrack for Oh Dem Watermelons, composed in 1965, involved basic tape work, using repeated phrasing together in a large five-part canon.

Reich was influenced by fellow minimalist Terry Riley, whose loosely structured aleatoric work In C combines simple musical patterns, offset in time, to create a slowly shifting, cohesive whole. Reich adopted this approach to compose his first major work, It's Gonna Rain. Written in 1965, It's Gonna Rain used recordings of a sermon about the end of the world given by a black Pentecostal street-preacher known as Brother Walter. Reich built on his early tape work, transferring the sermon to multiple tape loops played in and out of phase, with segments of the sermon cut and rearranged.

The 13-minute Come Out (1966) uses similarly manipulated recordings of a single spoken line given by an injured survivor of a race riot. The survivor, who had been beaten, punctured a bruise on his own body to convince police about his beating. The spoken line includes the phrase "to let the bruise blood come out to show them." Reich rerecorded the fragment "come out to show them" on two channels, which are initially played in unison. They quickly slip out of sync; gradually the discrepancy widens and becomes a reverberation. The two voices then split into four, looped continuously, then eight, and continues splitting until the actual words are unintelligible, leaving the listener with only the speech's rhythmic and tonal patterns.

A similar example of process music is Pendulum Music (1968), which consists of the sound of several microphones swinging over the loudspeakers to which they are attached, producing feedback as they do so. (Pendulum Music was recorded by Sonic Youth in the late 1990s.)

Reich's first attempt at translating this phasing technique from recorded tape to live performance was the 1967 Piano Phase, for two pianos. In Piano Phase the performers repeat a rapid twelve-note melodic figure, initially in unison. As one player keeps tempo with robotic precision, the other speeds up very slightly until the two parts line up again, but one sixteenth note apart. The second player then resumes the previous tempo. This cycle of speeding up and then locking in continues throughout the piece; the cycle comes full circle three times, the second and third cycles using shorter versions of the initial figure. Violin Phase, also written in 1967, is built on these same lines. Reich also tried to create the phasing effect in a piece "that would need no instrument beyond the human body". He found that the idea of phasing was inappropriate for the simple ways he was experimenting to make sound. Instead, he composed Clapping Music (1972), in which the players do not phase in and out with each other, but instead one performer keeps one line of a 12-quaver-long phrase and the other performer shifts by one quaver beat every 12 bars, until both performers are back in unison 144 bars later. Piano Phase and Violin Phase both premiered in a series of concerts given in New York art galleries.

The 1970s
The 1967 prototype piece Slow Motion Sound was never performed, but the idea it introduced of slowing down a recorded sound until many times its original length without changing pitch or timbre was applied to Four Organs (1970), which deals specifically with augmentation. The piece has maracas playing a fast quaver pulse, while the four organs stress certain quavers using an 11th chord. This work therefore dealt with repetition and subtle rhythmic change. It is unique in the context of Reich's other pieces in being linear as opposed to cyclic like his earlier works— the superficially similar Phase Patterns, also for four organs but without maracas, is (as the name suggests) a phase piece similar to others composed during the period. Four Organs was performed as part of a Boston Symphony Orchestra program, and was Reich's first composition to be performed in a large traditional setting.

In 1971, Reich embarked on a five-week trip to study music in Ghana, during which he learned from the master drummer Gideon Alerwoyie. He also studied Balinese gamelan in Seattle. From his African experience, as well as A. M. Jones's Studies in African Music about the music of the Ewe people, Reich drew inspiration for his 90-minute piece Drumming, which he composed shortly after his return. Composed for a 9-piece percussion ensemble with female voices and piccolo, Drumming marked the beginning of a new stage in his career, for around this time he formed his ensemble, Steve Reich and Musicians, and increasingly concentrated on composition and performance with them. Steve Reich and Musicians, which was to be the sole ensemble to interpret his works for many years, still remains active with many of its original members.

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 Six Pianos (1973).

In 1974, Reich began writing what many would call his seminal work, Music for 18 Musicians. This piece involved many 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. The increased number of performers resulted in more scope for 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. Reich's recording of the work was the first release in ECM Records' "New Series".

Reich explored these ideas further in his frequently recorded pieces Music for a Large Ensemble (1978) and Octet (1979). In these two works, Reich experimented with "the human breath as the measure of musical duration… the chords played by the trumpets are written to take one comfortable breath to perform" (liner notes for Music for a Large Ensemble). Human voices are part of the musical palette in Music for a Large Ensemble but the wordless vocal parts simply form part of the texture (as they do in Drumming). With Octet and his first orchestral piece Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards (also 1979), Reich's music showed influence of Biblical Cantillation, which he had studied in Israel since the summer of 1977. After this, the human voice singing a text would play an increasingly important role in Reich's music.

The technique […] consists of taking pre-existing melodic patterns and stringing them together to form a longer melody in the service of a holy text. If you take away the text, you're left with the idea of putting together small motives to make longer melodies - a technique I had not encountered before.

In the late 1970s Reich 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.

The 1980s
Reich's work took on a darker character in the 1980s with the introduction of political themes as well as themes from his Jewish heritage. Tehillim (1981), Hebrew for psalms, is the first of Reich's works to draw explicitly on his Jewish background. The work is in four parts, and is scored for an ensemble of four women's voices (one high soprano, two lyric sopranos and one alto), piccolo, flute, oboe, english horn, two clarinets, six percussion (playing small tuned tambourines without jingles, clapping, maracas, marimba, vibraphone and crotales), two electronic organs, two violins, viola, cello and double bass, with amplified voices, strings, and winds. A setting of texts from psalms 19:2–5 (19:1–4 in Christian translations), 34:13–15 (34:12–14), 18:26–27 (18:25–26), and 150:4–6, Tehillim is a departure from Reich's other work in its formal structure; the setting of texts several lines long rather than the fragments used in previous works makes melody a substantive element. Use of formal counterpoint and functional harmony also contrasts with the loosely structured minimalist works written previously.

Different Trains (1988), for string quartet and tape, uses recorded speech, as in his earlier works, but this time as a melodic rather than a rhythmic element, following the earlier example of Scott Johnson's John Somebody (1978). In Different Trains Reich compares and contrasts his childhood memories of his train journeys between New York and California in 1939-1941 with the very different trains being used to transport contemporaneous European children to their deaths under Nazi rule. The Kronos Quartet recording of Different Trains was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 1990.

New directions
In 1993, Reich collaborated with his wife, the video artist Beryl Korot, on an opera, The Cave, which explores the roots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam through the words of Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans, echoed musically by the ensemble. The work, for percussion, voices, and strings, is a musical documentary, named for the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, where a mosque now stands and Abraham is said to have been buried.

The two collaborated again on the opera Three Tales, which concerns the Hindenburg disaster, the testing of nuclear weapons on Bikini Atoll, and other more modern concerns, specifically Dolly the sheep, cloning, and the technological singularity.

As well as pieces using sampling techniques, like Three Tales and City Life (1994), Reich also returned to composing purely instrumental works for the concert hall, starting with Triple Quartet (1998) written for the Kronos Quartet that can either be performed by string quartet and tape, three string quartets or 36-piece string orchestra. According to Reich, the piece is influenced by Bartók's and Alfred Schnittke's string quartets. This series continued with Dance Patterns (2002), Cello Counterpoint (2003), and and sequence of works centered around Variations: You Are (Variations) (2004), a work which looks back to the vocal writing of works like Tehillim or The Desert Music, Variations for Vibes, Pianos, and Strings (2005, for the London Sinfonietta) and Daniel Variations (2006).

In a very recent interview with The Guardian, Reich stated that he continues to follow this direction with a yet unnamed piece commissioned by eighth blackbird, an American ensemble consisting of the instrumental quintet (flute, clarinet, violin or viola, cello and piano) of Schoenberg's piece Pierrot Lunaire (1912) plus percussion. Reich thinks that it will again be with tape, and he also states that he is thinking about Stravinsky's Agon (1957) as a model for the instrumental writing.

Influence
Reich's style of composition has influenced many other composers and musical groups, including Philip Glass (especially his early pieces), John Adams, the prog-rock band King Crimson, the new-age guitarist Michael Hedges, the art-pop and electronic musician Brian Eno, the composers associated with the Bang on a Can festival (including David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe), and indie rock musician Sufjan Stevens. His music has also been a source of inspiration to ambient and techno musicians. A melodic line from his 1987 work Electric Counterpoint was used by The Orb in their 1991 hit Little Fluffy Clouds. This connection has been honored in a 1999 album by DJs and electronic musicians, Reich Remixed, released on Nonesuch Records.

John Adams commented, "He didn't reinvent the wheel so much as he showed us a new way to ride."

He has also influenced visual artists such as Bruce Nauman, and has expressed admiration of choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's work set to his pieces.

Reich often cites Pérotin, J.S. Bach, Debussy and Stravinsky as composers he admires, whose tradition he wished as a young composer to become part of. Jazz is a major part of the formation of Reich's musical style, and two of the earliest influences on his work were vocalists Ella Fitzgerald and Alfred Deller, whose emphasis on the artistic capabilities of the voice alone with little vibrato or other alteration was an inspiration to his earliest works. John Coltrane's style, which Reich has described as "playing a lot of notes to very few harmonies", also had an impact; of particular interest was the album Africa/Brass, which "was basically a half-an-hour in F." Reich's influence from jazz includes its roots, also, from the West African music he studied in his readings and visit to Ghana. Other important influences are Kenny Clarke and Miles Davis, and visual artist friends such as Sol Lewitt and Richard Serra.

Works
It's Gonna Rain, tape (1965)
Come Out, tape (1966)
Piano Phase for two pianos, or two marimbas (1967)
Slow Motion Sound concept piece (1967)
Violin Phase for violin and tape or four violins (1967)
My Name Is for three tape recorders and performers (1967)
Pendulum Music for 3 or 4 microphones, amplifiers and loudspeakers (1968) (revised 1973)
Four Organs for four electric organs and maracas (1970)
Phase Patterns for four electric organs (1970)
Drumming for 4 pairs of tuned bongo drums, 3 marimbas, 3 glockenspiels, 2 female voices, whistling and piccolo (1970/1971)
Clapping Music for two musicians clapping (1972)
Music for Pieces of Wood for five pair of tuned claves (1973)
Six Pianos (1973) - transcribed as Six Marimbas (1986)
Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973)
Music for 18 Musicians (1974–76)
Music for a Large Ensemble (1978)
Octet (1979) - withdrawn in favor of the 1983 revision for slightly larger ensemble, Eight Lines
Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards for orchestra (1979)
Tehillim for voices and ensemble (1981)
Vermont Counterpoint for amplified flute and tape (1982)
The Desert Music for chorus and orchestra or voices and ensemble (1984, text by William Carlos Williams)
Sextet for percussion and keyboards (1984)
New York Counterpoint for amplified clarinet and tape, or 11 clarinets (1985)
Three Movements for orchestra (1986)
Electric Counterpoint for electric guitar or amplified acoustic guitar and tape (1987, for Pat Metheny)
The Four Sections for orchestra (1987)
Different Trains for string quartet and tape (1988)
The Cave for four voices, ensemble and video (1993, with Beryl Korot)
Duet for two violins and string ensemble (1993)
Nagoya Marimbas for two marimbas (1994)
City Life for amplified ensemble (1995)
Proverb for voices and ensemble (1995, text by Ludwig Wittgenstein)
Triple Quartet for amplified string quartet (with prerecorded tape), or three string quartets, or string orchestra (1998)
Know What Is Above You for four women’s voices and 2 tamborims (1999)
Three Tales for video projection, five voices and ensemble (1998–2002, with Beryl Korot)
Dance Patterns for 2 xylophones, 2 vibraphones and 2 pianos (2002)
Cello Counterpoint for amplified cello and multichannel tape (2003)
You Are (Variations) for voices and chamber orchestra (2004)
Variations for Vibes, Pianos, and Strings dance piece for three string quartets, four vibraphones, and two pianos (2005)
Daniel Variations for four voices and instruments (2006)

Selected discography
Drumming. Steve Reich and Musicians (Two recordings: Deutsche Grammophon and Nonesuch) So Percussion (Cantaloupe)
Music for 18 Musicians. Steve Reich and Musicians (Two recordings: ECM and Nonesuch)
Music for a Large Ensemble/Octet/Violin Phase. Steve Reich and Musicians (ECM)
Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards/Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ/ Six Pianos. San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Edo de Waart, Steve Reich & Musicians (Deutsche Grammophon)
Tehillim/The Desert Music. Alarm Will Sound and OSSIA, Alan Pierson (Cantaloupe)
Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint. Kronos Quartet, Pat Metheny (Nonesuch)
You Are (Variations)/Cello Counterpoint. Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon, Maya Beiser (Nonesuch)

Steve Reich Minimalist

the minimalism of steve reich

Reich's Musical Education

Reich was born in New York in 1936. At school he took to percussion, and in his undergraduate days at Cornell University (studying philosophy) received some part-time tuition in composition. His post-graduate days were spent first with Hall Overton. and then at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, between the years 1957-1961. Perhaps the most notable influence on his developing style came with the instruction of Luciano Berio (between ?1961 and 1963 at Mills College, California). It is at this point that Reich seems to have become dissatisfied with the serialism and indeterminacy of his counterparts and instead sought to probe and revitalise tonality in composition. Berio is said to have advised Reich,

"If you want to write tonal music, why don't you write tonal music?"

(Potter, K. Steve Reich. The Musical Times )

performing Clapping Music, 2006. (photo by Ian Oliver, souce: Wikipedia)

Early Works by Reich

The father of "minimalism" (the reduction of music to a fixed pulse with lucid harmonic and melodic repetition) La Monte Young. had an important impact on the composers in New York with his arrival in 1960 with pieces such as "Composition 1960 #7", consisting of just one two-note chord. Reich, under the influence of Young, Philip Glass and Terry Riley. began experimenting in an aspect of minimalism, "phasing" (the gradual change of pulse of one repeated motif against another - Reich writes about this in "Writings About Music" , p.50). Early experiments in "phasing" included the tape pieces "It's Gonna Rain" (1965) and "Come Out" (1966). Such works reveal Reich's social awareness; "Come out" concerns the retrial of a black youth. These pieces form a watershed, for process music was to dominate his work for the years up to 1972. He developed the "Phase Shifting Pulse Gate", an electronic device designed to enable ensembles to gradually alter individual tempo whilst remaining synchronized with each other. This was used in "Pulse Music" (1969) although Reich regards the device as unsuccessful (again in "Writings about Music", p.25), preferring to develop human phasing (for example, "Four Organs", 1970).

Reich and Rhythm

Reich's love of rhythm was fuelled in 1970 by research with the master drummer of the Ewe Tribe in Ghana. Such investigation led him to conclude that African rhythmic structure ought to be included in Western music,
"It's not just a question of importing exotic sounds and textures".

(Bowen, M. Different Strains, The Guardian , p.32)
"Drumming" (1971) was one result of his time spent in Africa. Several other key works were to follow, such as "Clapping Music" and "Music for Pieces of Wood" (1973). However, it would seem that this work signals an end to pure minimalism (in using sparse resources) for Reich was now to turn to larger scale projects, from now on it was to be minimalism magnified.

“Music for 18 Musicians ” in 1976 utilises expanded timbre resources and harmonic flexibility, revolving around eleven chords which steadily fade in and out of audibility. Repetition was further curtailed with "Tehillim " (1981), a word setting of four Hebrew psalms which included elaborate development of melody. And in 1983, "The Desert Music ", engaging over a 100 performers, lasting some 50 minutes and employing complex chromatic harmonic cycles exemplifies minimalism that had come of age. Reich continued to write for chamber groups in this period, alongside more extensive assignments. In 1993, for the first time Reich moved into the theatre with a music/video production in entitled "The Cave" (scored for percussion, strings and voices) - a work not dissimilar in style to the new opera of one of his contemporaries, Philip Glass.

Reich and Speech Sampling

"Different Trains" (1988), a work in three movements, is a synthesis of live and pre-recorded strings, speech samples (which form the basis of the motifs in the work) and samples of steam engine whistles. It won a grammy award in 1990 for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. Reich also invistigated speech and noise sampling with the work "City Life " (1995), composed of recordings of everyday city street noises such as car horns and alarms, and speech fragments. As in "Different Trains", Reich takes the intonations from the speech and turns these into melodies, which are performed by the live ensemble. In 2002, Reich again explored this technique with the three act video opera "Three Tales". Here the subject is technology itself - act one concerns the Hindenburg disaster, the second act is about nuclear experiments at the Bikini Atoll, and the final act concerns genetic engineering and artificial intelligence.

Since "Three Tales", Reich has focused on writing smaller scale instrumental works, such as the three pieces in variation form: "You Are (Variations)" (2004), "Variations for Vibes, Piano and Strings" (2005) and "Daniel Variations" (2006).

In 2009, Reich was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for "Double Sextet" (2007), a piece for an instrumental quintet (flute, clarinet, viola or violin, cello and piano), percussion and tape. The work can either be performed with two live ensembles, or with six musicians playing alongside a recording of themselves on tape. Reich has been fascinated by this idea for a long time, employing the technique in "Different Trains" and also as far back as 1967 in the work "Violin Phase".

Commenting on the Pulitzer award, Tim Page (professor of journalism and music at the University of Southern California) observes:

"It's about time the first generation of minimalist composers were honoured because they changed American music. It could be argued they changed world music. he (Reich) helped teach the world to listen to music in a new way."