Chris Hughes
Steve Reich Music

Steve Reich - a brief history

Steve Reich has been recognised internationally as one of the world's foremost living composers. Born in New York (1936) and raised there and in California, Mr Reich graduated with honors in Philosophy (specializing in Wittgenstein) from Cornell University in 1957.

Over the following two years he studied with Hall Overton, and then went on to the famous Juilliard School of Music with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti. Next came the Mills College in 1963, where he worked with Darius Milhaud and Luciano Berio.

Inspired, Reich spent the next two years experimenting with tape music, moving identical tape loops gradually out of synchronisation. This enabled the listener to be aware of the process of composition and reduced the music to basic elements.

In 1966 Reich returned to New York, Created his second tape loop piece Come Out and Steve Reich and Musicians. It was at this time that he began applying the principles of phasing during live performances - a technique heard in works such as Piano Phase, Violin Phase and Four Organs .

In 1970, Reich travelled to Ghana to study with a master drummer of the Ewe tribe, an experience that led to his tour de force of phasing: the 85-minute "Drumming" which has been called "one of the masterpieces of the minimal genre".

Steve Reich gained international acclaim, while still in his 20s as the inventor of 'phase music' - a new form, comprising repeated phases of the music in which slight tempo shifts between parts cause fantastical, hypnotic patterns.

Reich built on his early successes, creating an original and influential style that incorporates such diverse musical inspirations as African drumming, Bach, Bartok and jazz. His work has been described by critic Nicholas Kenyon of the UK Observer newspaper as "full of colour, change, textural variety and nuance".

Major Works

Different Trains [1988]

The New York Times hailed Different Trains as "a work of such astonishing originality that breakthrough seems the only possible description... possesses an absolutely harrowing emotional impact."

The Cave [1993]

Time magazine said that The Cave is "a fascinating glimpse of what opera might be like in the 21st century."

Steve Reich Works: 1965-1995 [1997]

Tim Page of The Washington Post called it "exhilarating...[Reich] has given us many masterpieces and has had a profound effect on the aesthetic of late-20th-century music."