Steve Reich
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/960x540/p01bqjdw.jpg
1936-10-03
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/a3031680-c359-458f-a641-70ccbaec6a74
Steve Reich

Biography

Steve Reich has followed a line of impressive consistency through more than four decades, developing the pulsed iterations of US Minimalism into music of ever greater intricacy and range without loss of excitement. A philosophy major at Cornell (1953–7), he ...

Read more


Biography

Steve Reich has followed a line of impressive consistency through more than four decades, developing the pulsed iterations of US Minimalism into music of ever greater intricacy and range without loss of excitement. A philosophy major at Cornell (1953–7), he then studied composition at the Juilliard School (1958–61) and with Darius Milhaud and Luciano Berio at Mills College, in the San Francisco Bay Area (1962–3). Remaining there for two more years to work at the Tape Music Center, he returned to New York, which has been his home ever since.

He quickly established his own studio and began giving performances in downtown galleries. His music at this point was based on repetitions in two or more lines drifting apart, an idea that sprang from the effect of loops being played on two tape recorders that gradually got out of phase: hence his use of the word ‘phasing’ for processes of this kind. An essential feature, at first, was that the process should be frankly presented; besides phasing it might be a matter of steadily adding notes to a repeating figure, or taking them away, as in Four Organs (1970).That year he visited Ghana to study drumming, and returned to found his own ensemble based on tuned percussion instruments, Steve Reich and Musicians, with whom he immediately began touring internationally. A little later he studied the percussion-ensemble music of Bali – not in situ this time, but on the USA’s west coast.

Meanwhile his group grew in size. and his music in richness of colour and harmony – a long-range process in itself that began with the classic Drumming (1970–1) and culminated in Music for 18 Musicians (1974–6). The spectacular success of that work, in concert and on record, encouraged him to publish his music, which hitherto he had confined to his own group. He also began to receive orchestral commissions, all the while increasing the subtlety of sound and design within his personal style of repeating modal figures that gain rhythmic vitality from metric ambiguity (generally about the grouping of 12 beats in threes or fours).

In 1976–7 he turned to his own Jewish heritage in studying traditional chanting, a departure that gave rise to Tehillim for women’s voices and small orchestra (1981), setting verses from the psalms. In some works, notably Different Trains for string quartet and electronics (1988), he also brought back a technique from his first tape pieces, of using fragments of recorded speech, now as melodic formulae to be imitated by instruments.

He went on to work with video recordings (by his wife Beryl Korot) in combination with recorded and live music in his two biggest pieces: The Cave (1990–93), a skein of Israeli, Palestinian and US responses to biblical myth, and Three Tales (1998–2002), about the limits and losses of modern technology.

Profile © Paul Griffiths

Steve Reich Audio & Video


Steve Reich Tracks

Sort by

Steve Reich
Clapping Music For Two Performers (1972)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Clapping Music For Two Performers (1972)
Steve Reich
Music for 18 Musicians: Pulses (conclusion)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Music for 18 Musicians: Pulses (conclusion)
Pat Metheny
Electric Counterpoint: 3. Fast
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p01bqhdr.jpg
link
Electric Counterpoint: 3. Fast
Steve Reich
New York counterpoint for clarinet and tape
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
New York counterpoint for clarinet and tape
Steve Reich
Different Trains; 1st mvt, America – Before the War
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Different Trains; 1st mvt, America – Before the War
Steve Reich
Nagoya Marimbas
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Nagoya Marimbas
Steve Reich
The Desert Music; Third Movement Part Two (Moderate)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
The Desert Music; Third Movement Part Two (Moderate)
Steve Reich
Piano Phase
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Piano Phase
Steve Reich
New York Counterpoint – 2nd mvt
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
New York Counterpoint – 2nd mvt
Steve Reich
Music for 18 Musicians: Section IX
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Music for 18 Musicians: Section IX
Steve Reich
Duet for 2 violins and strings
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Duet for 2 violins and strings
Steve Reich
Music for 18 Musicians: Section VIII
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Music for 18 Musicians: Section VIII
Steve Reich
18 Musicians
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
18 Musicians
Steve Reich
Music for 18 Musicians: Section VI
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Music for 18 Musicians: Section VI
Steve Reich
Music for 18 Musicians: Section V
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Music for 18 Musicians: Section V
Steve Reich
Music for 18 Musicians: Section IV
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Music for 18 Musicians: Section IV
Steve Reich
Clapping music for 2 musicians [clapping or woodblocks]
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Clapping music for 2 musicians [clapping or woodblocks]
Steve Reich
The Desert Music - 3rd mvt, part 3
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
The Desert Music - 3rd mvt, part 3
Steve Reich
Clapping music for 2 musicians
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Clapping music for 2 musicians
Steve Reich
Different Trains - start of 'America - Before the war' (1st mvmt)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Different Trains - start of 'America - Before the war' (1st mvmt)
Ensemble Signal
Music For 18 Musicians (Modular Version) - Section 1
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Music For 18 Musicians (Modular Version) - Section 1
Steve Reich
Six Marimbas
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Six Marimbas
Steve Reich
Electric Counterpoint: 1. Fast
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p024pz90.jpg
link
Electric Counterpoint: 1. Fast
Add music you love and enjoy it
Playlists featuring Steve Reich
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
The Story of Music in 50 Pieces
The Story of Music in 50 Pieces


Steve Reich Biography

Steve Reich has followed a line of impressive consistency through more than four decades, developing the pulsed iterations of US Minimalism into music of ever greater intricacy and range without loss of excitement. A philosophy major at Cornell (1953–7), he then studied composition at the Juilliard School (1958–61) and with Darius Milhaud and Luciano Berio at Mills College, in the San Francisco Bay Area (1962–3). Remaining there for two more years to work at the Tape Music Center, he returned to New York, which has been his home ever since.

He quickly established his own studio and began giving performances in downtown galleries. His music at this point was based on repetitions in two or more lines drifting apart, an idea that sprang from the effect of loops being played on two tape recorders that gradually got out of phase: hence his use of the word ‘phasing’ for processes of this kind. An essential feature, at first, was that the process should be frankly presented; besides phasing it might be a matter of steadily adding notes to a repeating figure, or taking them away, as in Four Organs (1970).That year he visited Ghana to study drumming, and returned to found his own ensemble based on tuned percussion instruments, Steve Reich and Musicians, with whom he immediately began touring internationally. A little later he studied the percussion-ensemble music of Bali – not in situ this time, but on the USA’s west coast.

Meanwhile his group grew in size. and his music in richness of colour and harmony – a long-range process in itself that began with the classic Drumming (1970–1) and culminated in Music for 18 Musicians (1974–6). The spectacular success of that work, in concert and on record, encouraged him to publish his music, which hitherto he had confined to his own group. He also began to receive orchestral commissions, all the while increasing the subtlety of sound and design within his personal style of repeating modal figures that gain rhythmic vitality from metric ambiguity (generally about the grouping of 12 beats in threes or fours).

In 1976–7 he turned to his own Jewish heritage in studying traditional chanting, a departure that gave rise to Tehillim for women’s voices and small orchestra (1981), setting verses from the psalms. In some works, notably Different Trains for string quartet and electronics (1988), he also brought back a technique from his first tape pieces, of using fragments of recorded speech, now as melodic formulae to be imitated by instruments.

He went on to work with video recordings (by his wife Beryl Korot) in combination with recorded and live music in his two biggest pieces: The Cave (1990–93), a skein of Israeli, Palestinian and US responses to biblical myth, and Three Tales (1998–2002), about the limits and losses of modern technology.

Profile © Paul Griffiths

Back to artist