Steve Reich

Reich performing Clapping Music in 2006

Stephen Michael Reich (ʃ/[1][2] born October 3, 1936) is an American composer who, along with La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass, pioneered minimal music in the mid to late 1960s.[3][4][5]

Reich's style of composition influenced many composers and groups. His innovations include using tape loops to create phasing patterns (for example, 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 Different Trains.

Writing in The Guardian, music critic Andrew Clements suggested that Reich is one of "a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history".[6] The American composer and critic Kyle Gann has said that Reich "may ... be considered, by general acclamation, America's greatest living composer".[7]

Early life

Reich was born in New York City to the Broadway lyricist June Sillman and Leonard Reich. When he was one year old, his parents divorced, and Reich divided his time between New York and California. He is the half-brother of writer Jonathan Carroll.[8] 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.[9] Reich studied drums with Roland Kohloff in order to play jazz. While attending Cornell University, he minored in music and graduated in 1957 with a B.A. in Philosophy.[10] Reich's B.A. thesis was on Ludwig Wittgenstein;[11][citation needed] 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[12] 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.[13]

Reich worked with the San Francisco Tape Music Center along with Pauline Oliveros, Ramon Sender, Morton Subotnick, Phil Lesh and Terry Riley.[14] 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.

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