Reich, Steve (actually, Stephen Michael)

views updated

Reich, Steve (actually, Stephen Michael)

Reich, Steve (actually, Stephen Michael), outstanding American composer; b. N.Y., Oct. 3, 1936. He received training in piano in childhood, and when he was 14 he began to study drumming with the timpanist Roland Kohloff. He also studied philosophy at Cornell Univ. (B.A., 1957), where he received training in music from William Austin. Following private composition lessons with Hall Overton in N.Y. (1957–58), he studied composition with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti at the Juilliard School of Music (1958–61), and then pursued postgraduate studies with Darius Milhaud and Luciana Berio at Mills Coll. in Oakland, Calif. (M.A., 1963). Reich launched his career with the film music for The Plastic Haircut (1963). His one-man concert at the San Francisco Tape Music Center in Jan. 1965 featured his It’s Gonna Rain. In 1966 he returned to N.Y. and founded his own group, Steve Reich and Musicians. His tape piece Come Out was first performed at Town Hall in April 1966, and then recorded in 1967. In 1970 Reich studied drumming at the Inst. for African Studies at the Univ. of Ghana in Accra. This sojourn inspired him to write his Drumming, which was first performed in N.Y. on Dec. 3, 1971. During the summers of 1973 and 1974 he pursued training in Balinese music in Seattle and Berkeley. With his Music for Eighteen Musicians, which was premiered at N.Y.’s Town Hall on April 24, 1976, Reich established himself as a composer of wide appeal. In 1976–77 he studied Hebrew, the Torah, and the traditional forms of cantillation of the Scriptures in N.Y. and Jerusalem. On Feb. 19, 1980, Steve Reich and Musicians gave a sold-out all-Reich concert in N.Y. He was the featured composer at London’s Almeida Festival in 1986, and in 1987 his career was highlighted in the PBS film “Steve Reich: A New Musical Language.” In 1988 London’s South Bank Centre presented a major retrospective of his creative output. His Different Trains for String Quartet and Tape (London, Nov. 2, 1988) became a best-selling recording and won a Grammy Award in 1990. In 1991 Steve Reich and Musicians toured Japan for the first time. His documentary video opera The Cave was premiered in Vienna on May 16, 1993. Reich was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1994. In 1995 he was in residence at Tanglewood. In 1999 the Lincoln Center Festival in N.Y. presented a series of retrospective concerts in his honor.

In his remarkably varied oeuvre, Reich has pursued an eclectic path in which he has successfully utilized elements of Western Classical music, American vernacular music, most notably jazz, and non-Western music, particularly African and Balinese music. This syncretic approach has won him a diverse and loyal following at home and abroad.


The Plastic Haircut, film music on tape (1963); Pitch Charts for Variable Instrumentation (1963); Music for 3 or More Pianos or Piano and Tape (1964); It’s Gonna Rain for Tape (San Francisco, Jan. 1965); Oh Dem Watermelons, film music on tape (1965); Come Out for Tape (N.Y., April 1966); Melodica for Tape (N.Y., June 1966); Reed Phase for Soprano Saxophone and Tape (1966; N.Y., March 17, 1967); Piano Phase for 2 Pianos or 2 Marimbas (1967); Slow Motion Sound for Tape (1967); My Name is for 3 or More Recorders, Performers and Audience (1967); Violin Phase for Violin and Tape or 4 Violins (1967); Pendulum Music for 3 or More Microphones, Amplifiers, Loudspeakers, and Performers (1968; N.Y., May 27, 1969); Pulse Music for Phase Shifting Pulse Gate (N.Y., May 27, 1969); Four Log Drums for Phase Shifting Pulse Gate and Log Drums (N.Y., May 27, 1969); Four Organs for 4 Electric Organs and Maracas (1970); Phase Patterns for 4 Electric Organs (1970); Drumming fot Percussion, Women’s Voices, Whistling, and Piccolo (N.Y., Dec. 3, 1971); Clapping Music for 2 Performers Clapping (1972); Six Pianos (N.Y., May 16, 1973; as Six Marimbas, 1986; N.Y., April 20, 1987); Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ (N.Y., May 16, 1973); Music for Pieces of Wood for 5 Pairs of Tuned Claves (N.Y., May 16, 1973); Music for Eighteen Musicians for Ensemble and Women’s Voices (N.Y., April 24, 1976); Music for a Large Ensemble for Ensemble and Women’s Voices (1978; Holland Festival, June 1979); Octet for 2 Flutes Doubling Clarinets, 2 Pianos, and String Quartet (Frankfurt am Main, June 21, 1979; rev. as Eight Lines for Chamber Orch., N.Y., Dec. 10, 1983); Variations for Winds, Strings, and Keyboards (1979; N.Y., Feb. 19, 1980; rev. version, San Francisco, May 14, 1980); Tehillim for Voices and Ensemble (1st complete perf., WDR, Cologne, Sept. 20, 1981; also for Voices and Chamber Orch., N.Y., Sept. 16, 1982); Vermont Counterpoint for Flute and Tape (N.Y., Oct. 1, 1982; also for 11 Flutes, N.Y., Dec. 10, 1983); The Desert Music for Chorus and Orch., after William Carlos Williams (1982–84; WDR, Cologne, March 17, 1984; also for 10 Voices and Orch., Richmond, Va., Jan. 10, 1986); Sextet for Percussion and Keyboards (Paris, Dec. 19, 1984; rev. 1985); New York Counterpoint for Clarinet and Tape (1985; N.Y., Jan. 20, 1986; also for 11 Clarinets, Tallahassee, June 21, 1987); Three Movements for Orch. (St. Louis, April 3, 1986); Salute for Orch. (1986; withdrawn); The Four Sections for Orch. (San Francisco, Oct. 7, 1987); Electric Counterpoint for Guitar and Tape (N.Y., Nov. 5, 1987; also for 13 Guitars, Los Angeles, Feb. 24, 1990); Different Trains for String Quartet and tape (London, Nov. 2, 1988); Typing Music I for 5 Percussionists, after the documentary video opera The Cave (1989); The Cave, documentary video opera (1990–93; Vienna, May 16, 1993); Typing Music (Genesis XII) for Keyboards and Percussion (N.Y., Feb. 22, 1991); Duet for 2 Violins and String Ensemble or String Orch. (1993; Gstaad, Aug. 8, 1995); Nagoya Marimbas for 2 Marimbas (Nagoya City, Dec. 21, 1994); City Life for Ensemble (Metz, March 7, 1995); Proverb for Voices and Ensemble (1995; N.Y., Feb. 10, 1996); Three Tales, documentary video opera (1997–2000).


W. Mertens, American Minimal Music: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, S. R., Philip Glass (London, 1991).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire