Nov 20, 2016

Sundaze 1647


Today's artist is an American composer (born October 3, 1936) who, along with La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass, pioneered minimal music in the mid to late 1960s. His style of composition influenced many composers and groups. His innovations include using tape loops to create phasing patterns. These compositions, marked by their use of repetitive figures, slow harmonic rhythm and canons, have significantly influenced contemporary music, especially in the US...... N'Joy

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A highly influential avant-garde composer and one of the key founders of the minimalist school of music, Reich has embraced a wide variety of musical styles and interests, forging from them a unique synthesis.

Reich took piano lessons as a youngster, but his first big musical revelations came at 14, when he encountered the music of Bach and Stravinsky. He also had his first exposure to bebop, and immediately started learning drums and playing in a jazz band with friends. He played on weekends while studying at Cornell, which he entered at age 16 and where he received a degree in philosophy, specializing in the work of Wittgenstein. In 1957, he entered Juilliard, studying with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti (and meeting fellow student Philip Glass). Here Reich first heard 12-tone music; he got a further dose of it during graduate studies at Mills College in Oakland, working with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud, and eventually earning his master's degree.

At about that time Reich met Terry Riley, who was in the process of writing In C (1964). Reich played in its premiere, and In C's tonal approach and use of repeating patterns had a big influence on Reich's own music. In turn, Reich suggested the use of the eighth note pulse, which is now standard in performance of the piece. Reich had been experimenting with tapes, creating loops of speech and layering them, allowing the layers to move in and out of sync with one another. His early works It's Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966) led to similar experiments with live performers, the first of which was Piano Phase for two pianos (1967). Back in New York, Reich and Glass formed an ensemble to perform their music (1968-1971). Several of those players later formed Steve Reich and Musicians, which has toured the world many times over.

In 1970, Reich studied for several weeks at the University of Ghana. His encounter with Ghanaian music and dance inspired his ambitious work Drumming (1970). Encounters with Indonesian gamelan music in 1973-1974 at Seattle and Berkeley were equally significant, and broadened Reich's rhythmic and timbral palette. His most significant composition of the time was Music for 18 Musicians (1974-1976), a large and colorful work which brought Reich worldwide recognition.

In the mid-'70s, Reich started taking Torah classes with his future wife, video artist Beryl Korot. He also studied traditional Jewish cantillation and incorporated it into his psalm settings, Tehillim (1981). Several chamber and orchestral works followed in the 1980s. For Different Trains (1988, a Grammy winner), Reich used a digital sampler to record speaking voices and derived the rhythmic and melodic ideas of the piece from those voices. Reich knew that Different Trains was going to lead to some kind of new documentary form incorporating both video and music. Collaborating with his wife for the first time, the two completed their theater work The Cave in 1993. They continued to explore the combination of music and video with Three Tales (1998-2002).

Music for 18 Musicians [Nonesuch 1998] By the end of the 21st century's first decade, the lasting significance of Reich's music was being recognized worldwide. After 1998's new recording of Music for 18 Musicians won a Grammy, Reich received honorary doctorates and awards from Juilliard, Budapest's Franz Liszt Academy and other schools; the 2007 Polar Music Prize; the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Music (for Double Sextet); and, in 2012, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Music. On March 5, 2013 the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Brad Lubman, at the Royal Festival Hall in London gave the world premiere of Radio Rewrite for ensemble with 11 players, inspired by the music of Radiohead. The programme also included Double Sextet for ensemble with 12 players, Clapping Music, for two people and four hands featuring Reich himself alongside percussionist Colin Currie.

In 2013 Reich received the US$400,000 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in contemporary music for bringing a new conception of music, based on the use of realist elements from the realm of daily life and others drawn from the traditional music of Africa and Asia. In September 2014, Reich was awarded the "Leone d'Oro" (Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Music) from the Venice Biennale. In March 2016, Reich was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Royal College of Music in London at the ripe old age of 79 years.

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These historical recordings were difficult to find (usually on out of print compilations) for a long time, so it's gratifying to have them readily available in one place. The two important tape pieces here from the mid-'60s, "Come Out" and "It's Gonna Rain," have their sound sources originating in police brutality and apocalyptic evangelism. Reich takes his sources and turns them into two short tape loops repeated rapidly as they gradually go out of synch with each other -- what's revealed are the intricacies of the human voice. "Come Out" takes the voice fragment and turns it into a hall-of-mirror set of voices over shuffling beat and wah-wah that are actually a by-product of subtleties of the voice and almost unrecognizable as the original vocal sample. It becomes a scary psychedelic funk piece that Funkadelic or Can would have been proud of. "It's Gonna Rain" is similarly looped and phased as the preacher's admonition is transformed, moving in and out of synch as the piece progresses with the second part of the piece especially full of fierce, terrifying swirls of noise. After taking musique concrete to another level, Reich decided to try to make similar strides with instrumental music. The two other pieces here, "Piano Phase" and "Four Organs," represent this new direction in his work. Early Works is a must-have introduction for anyone interested in the roots of minimalist music.

Steve Reich 01 Early Works    (flac  298mb)

01 Come Out 12:58
02 Piano Phase (feat Double Edge) 20:36
03 It's Gonna Rain 17:55
04 Four Organs (feat Bang On A Can) 15:52


Along with Terry Riley's In C and perhaps Glass' early piano music, Drumming defined the essential component of this new form of music: a transparent process that could imperceptibly lead to bewildering complexity. Crucially, Reich added an extra ingredient: rhythms derived from his studies of West African drumming, giving the work an inherent vitality sometimes missing from his contemporaries. Drumming is a 75-minute piece laid out in four sections, one apiece for small tuned drums (played with mallets), marimbas, and glockenspiels, ending with a combination of all three plus the addition of voices mimicking the percussion. Beginning with a single struck drum, notes are added little by little, apparently simply filling the voids between them but, almost before the listener realizes it, suddenly being heard as new rhythmic patterns themselves, taking on a miraculously shifting guise. One can virtually choose to hear any of a number of rhythms depending on how one organizes the sounds in one's head. Indeed, Reich allowed his musicians to "discover" various rhythms for themselves and accent them accordingly. The process is fairly similar in each section, the palette changing from the beautifully resonant drums to the luscious marimbas to glockenspiels, the massed character of which add an extra element: ringing overtones. In Drumming, Reich arrived at the perfect combination of intellectual rigor and corporeal sensuousness, neither side predominating, both in clear and glorious presence.

Steve Reich 02 Drumming  (flac  242mb)

01 Part I 17:31
02 Part II 18:10
03 Part III 11:12
04 Part IV 9:50


Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ is a preliminary step down the path Reich would take in coming years, using longer melodic lines and a looser, more expansive rhythmic system. Very beautiful in and of itself, one can't help but think that the composer really made his major statement earlier, in Drumming, and that much of what would follow would be elaboration on those basic ideas.

Steve Reich 03 Music For Mallet Instruments  (flac  170mb)

01 Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices And Organ 16:59
02 Clapping Music 4:48
03 Six Marimbas (feat The Manhattan Marimba Quartet) 16:19


If Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians is simply described in terms of its materials and organization -- 11 chords followed by 11 pieces built on those chords -- then it might seem utterly dry and monotonous. The actual music, though, is far from lackluster. When this recording was released in 1978, the impact on the new music scene was immediate and overwhelming. Anyone who saw potential in minimalism and had hoped for a major breakthrough piece found it here. The beauty of its pulsing added-note harmonies and the sustained power and precision of the performance were the music's salient features; and instead of the sterile, electronic sound usually associated with minimalism, the music's warm resonance was a welcome change. Yet repeated listening brought out a subtle and important shift in Reich's conception: the patterns were no longer static repetitions moving in and out of phase with each other, but were now flexible units that grew organically and changed incrementally over the course of the work. This discovery indicated a promising new direction for Reich, one that put him ahead of his peers by giving his music greater interest and adaptability and led to the more elaborate works of the next two decades.

Steve Reich 04 Music For 18 Musicians  (flac  318mb)

01 Pulses 5:26
02 Section I 3:58
03 Section II 5:13
04 Section IIIa 3:55
05 Section IIIb 3:45
06 Section IV 6:36
07 Section V 6:48
08 Section VI 4:54
09 Section VII 4:19
10 Section VIII 3:34
11 Section IX 5:23
12 Section X 1:50
13 Section XI 5:44
14 Pulses 6:10

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Lee said...

Any chance of a reup on early Steve Reich after the brilliant Charles Hazelwood Tones and Drones doc.

T. S. said...

Hello, Rho:

Thank you for sharing your Xcess! It has been a long week for me. I'm ready for the weekend.

A year has passed since the last reup of this post. Could you please reupload these albums? This is my first request of the week (

And this is my second request of the week (

I hope you have a great weekend!


T. S. said...

Dear Rho:

Thank you so much for the reups and generosity.


electriqueberceuse said...

Thanks you very much Rho, for the re-re ups of Steve Reich.
Will this continue in the series? Hope so.