The 20th century has seldom seen the likes of composers such as Steve Reich, who are quite honestly destined for greatness. A sensational composer of Avant-Garde and Classical music, Steve Reich has encompassed a number of musical styles in his compositions, ranging from Avant-Garde to Chamber music. Most famously, he is known to have revolutionized the classical music techniques, having a heavy hand in the use and invention of minimalist music, tape loops and various phasing patterns. Within the company of such great composers as La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass, Reich has produced countless number of albums, tracks and recordings that have gone on to inspire some of the most renowned musicians today.
Reich was born amidst a family of musical origins, and by the time he was 14, he was proficient in the piano and had begun learning drums as a side interest. He was, however, primarily fond of the music of Bach and Stravinsky, and most of his subsequent productions featured the techniques, arrangements and compositional criteria of these great legends. Reich can also be categorized with those few musicians who have had such long, illustrious careers while also completing their education to a respectable degree. Beginning his career in the early 1960s, Reich’s first work can be traced back to a sound track he produced for a movie called Plastic Haircuts (1963). These first few tracks experimented heavily with rhythmic styles of arrangements rather than melody, and mostly involved tape elements. After composing a few works for another set of films, it was only until 1965 that Reich began making his own music. Influenced heavily by Terry Riley’s work on In C, Reich used some of the minimalist elements he heard in Riley’s work to produce It’s Gonna Rain, incorporating simple rhythmic patterns and a slow, shifty layering feel in to most track arrangements. He also came across some more phasing, feedback and 12-note techniques, which were used in a number of works including Piano Phase (1967), Pendulum Music (1968) and Clapping Music (1972).
In the early 1970s, distraught by the restrictions in American music of the time, Reich travelled to Ghana and sought to envisage a whole new concept of merging music along cultural lines. He picked up a number of different phasing and vocal techniques and created an astonishing piece, called Drumming (1971). Given Reich’s curiosity for new compositional mechanisms, he then decided to experiment with augmentation in his music, and created works such as Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973) and Six Pianos (1973). However, what presented as rising international recognition for Reich was his most prized piece of the time, Music for 18 Musicians, an elaborate work that revolves around circling cycles and multiple chords. Some of his further attempts to personify ensemble works followed with Music for a Large Ensemble (1978) and Octet (1979).
The ensuing success from his ensemble works in the late 1970s further motivated Reich to produce more such pieces, although now focusing more on his Jewish lineage and themes that aroused from this particular context. In works like Tehillim (1981), Reich makes use of more arrangement parts and a number of different instruments such as the flute, cello and English horn. Perhaps his most successful work from this period was Different Trains (1988), which won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classic Composition. Reich’s extraordinary ability to merge different styles of music and produce virtually any arrangement of chords, phases and melodies truly puts him in a separate league in modern times. A multi-award winning Hall of Famer, Steve Reich continues to produce some of the most enthralling tracks of all time.