I recently watched a 1987 TV documentary about composer Steve Reich called Steve Reich – New Musical Language. Born in New York City in 1936, Reich is widely recognized as one of the key pioneers of musical minimalism. He’s had a long and distinguished career with many accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Apart from the wonderful personal insights into many of his important early pieces, (that you might expect), a few interesting, more unusual ideas emerge in this film, perhaps, not even stated or portrayed outright. Although I’ll give you a few teasers here, it is worth experiencing the more full discussion with commentary by Reich himself and examples of his music.
First idea: “where’s the drumming?”- after observing the dirth of drumming in the classical music world, Reich brings this art form into the forefront of new music composition.
Second idea: tape loops (e.g. in the piece Come Out 1966), are possibly an early influence on the art of sampling vocals, particularly as emerging in the hip-hop tradition to come much later.
Third idea: Reich spans both the world of acoustic composition and electronic music/tape music composition and seems equally at home in both.