Steve Reich

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Steve Reich explains clapping music (recording: 2006)

Steve Reich , actually Stephen Michael Reich [ ɹaɪʃ ] (born October 3, 1936 in New York City , New York ) is an American composer , pianist and drummer who is best known in the field of minimal music and as one of its pioneers applies, although he refrained from the pure minimalist style in later works. Nevertheless, together with Philip Glass , Terry Riley and La Monte Young , he is generally considered to be one of the most important representatives of (American) Minimal Music .

The oeuvre of Empire includes numerous vocal and orchestral works for orchestra or ensembles, quartets, multimedia performances and other chamber music and solo compositions with very different composition approaches.

His inspirations come from original African drum music or Balinese gamelan music, as an expression of non-western folk music, as well as electronic techniques or phasing , music of the Baroque, Renaissance or the Middle Ages, to psychedelic rock , jazz and composers of the 20th century. Century. It does not explicitly refer to classical , romantic, or serial music composers .

Steve Reich has been described as "America's greatest living composer" ( The Village VOICE ) and "the most original musical thinker of our time" ( The New Yorker ); for the New York Times he is "one of the great composers of the century".


Origin and childhood

Steve Reich was born into a German-Jewish family in 1936 as the son of singer, Broadway lyricist and poet June Carroll and lawyer Leonard J. Reich. His parents separated in 1937, shortly after his first birthday. He stayed with his father in New York, his mother moved to Los Angeles a little later to earn money as a singer and text writer. Both parents shared custody, which is why Reich frequently commuted between 1939 and 1942 with his governess by rail between the American east and west coast. These train journeys were later given a special meaning because he explicitly referred to them in his play Different Trains (1988) as a metaphor for the Nazi extermination trains rolling through Europe.

"As a Jew who would have been born in Europe, I would probably not have been sitting in comfortable coaches at the same time, but on the Holocaust trains."

- Steve Reich

Although Steve Reich came from a German-Jewish family, he was raised atheist . His half-brother, Jonathan Carroll, is a successful writer.

Reich grew up in bourgeois suburban conditions and, according to his own account, only came into contact with music from the Classical-Romantic period (1750–1900) until he was 14 . At the instigation of his father , he received piano lessons between (circa) 1943 and 1946 , which he was not very enthusiastic about and which he broke off of his own accord at the age of 10.

Around 1950 he heard works by Johann Sebastian Bach for the first time , for example the “ Brandenburg Concert ”, new music such as “ Le sacre du printemps ” by Stravinsky and jazz ( Charlie Parker , Miles Davis , Kenny Clarke ), which made a lasting impression on him and led to that in the same year he received drum lessons from Roland Kohloff, who later became the first timpanist of the New York Philharmonic . In 1953 he finished high school and formed a bebop quintet in which he played drums.

Professional career

Studied philosophy and studied composition

In the same year, at 16, he enrolled at Cornell University in Ithaca for a bachelor's degree in philosophy . He only took music as a minor, but was influenced and encouraged to become a composer by the professor of music history there , William Austin. In 1957 he completed his studies in philosophy with a bachelor thesis on the late work of Ludwig Wittgenstein . He used quotations from Wittgenstein for Proverb (1995) and You Are (Variations) (2006).

However, he did not embark on a further philosophical career, because he saw himself as a composer. He was particularly fascinated by the music of John Coltrane with its long improvisations over very few chords and the bebop in general . According to his own statements, he wants to have seen John Coltrane on stage at least 50 times. From 1957 to 1958, Reich took private lessons from the jazz composer and pianist Hall Overton and was accepted into the New York Juilliard School in composition at the age of 21 . There he studied with Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma . The future composer Philip Glass was one of his classmates . However, Reich was not particularly comfortable in the rather academic environment. Contributing to his discomfort was that his preferred instrument, the drums, was not recognized as a fully-fledged instrument. He also had a tense relationship with his father, who was not enthusiastic about his son's plans.

Studies in composition and first artistic activities

In 1961, Reich married his first wife, Joyce Barkett, and moved with her to California.

He continued to study composition at Mills College in Oakland , among others with Faculty Professor Darius Milhaud and Visiting Professor Luciano Berio (whom Reich preferred). Under Berio's guidance, Reich analyzed scores by Anton Webern that were contrary to the tonal harmonies that Reich himself preferred. The undogmatic Berio asked Reich: "If you want to write tonal music, why don't you write tonal music?" Reich was also inspired by Arnold Schoenberg's intellectual power of his composition and twelve-tone technique . Reich's early compositional attempts included experimentation with twelve-tone compositions, but he found the rhythmic aspects of the twelve-tone row more interesting than the melodic aspects. Schoenberg's early work, his only orchestral work in free atonality , Five Orchestral Pieces, op. 16, No. 3 Colors (1909), he once described as one of his favorite classical works. In 1995, Reich named the music of the baroque, renaissance and medieval times (especially the composers Léonin and Pérotin from the 12th century), non-western music and composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach , Antonio Vivaldi or Wolfgang Amadeus as his musical sources of strength Mozart . However, he also admitted that music history for him as a composer essentially begins with Gregorian chant and ends with the death of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1750. Then it begins again for him with Claude Debussy , Maurice Ravel , Igor Stravinsky , Béla Bartók , Anton Webern up to the present - Reich on this in 2011: "The entire classical and romantic period is filled with geniuses that I do not hear and of whom I do learned absolutely nothing ". At Mills College, Reich made the acquaintance of fellow student Phil Lesh , who later became the bassist of the Grateful Dead .

In 1962 he read Arthur Morris Jones' book on African drum music and began working alongside his studies at the San Francisco Tape Music Center , an artistic institution that deals with tape music . There he came into contact with Pauline Oliveros, Ramon Sender, Morton Subotnick and Terry Riley. He was involved in the world premiere of Riley's "In C" and suggested the use of the eighth pulse, which is now the standard for the performance of the piece. He criticized the lack of freedom in training, which essentially propagated aleatoric and serialism , and spent a lot of time jazz at night, founded an improvisation group, worked in the street theater of Mine Troup and took part in a light show.

The next year his son Michael was born and he separated from Joyce Barkett.

In 1963 he graduated from Mills College with a Masters of Arts and turned his back on the academic world for good.

A little later he moved back to New York, where he founded the ensemble "Steve Reich and Musicians" in 1966 and played in other ensembles for new music and composed pieces for them.

He couldn't make a living from that alone, but instead of trying to get a scholarship or an assistant professorship, he drove a taxi and worked at the post office. Together with his former fellow student Philip Glass, he briefly founded a joint moving company, the Chelsea Light Moving . Two later famous composers carried furniture through New York apartment buildings on a budget.

Studies in Ghana, Europe and Israel

From 1969 to 1971 he worked at the New School for Social Research in New York, interrupted by a stay in Accra , Ghana , where he took percussion lessons with Gideon Alorworye for five weeks at the University of Ghana in the summer of 1970 . The teacher introduced Reich to polyrhythms . One result of these studies was the composition "Drumming" (1970–1971), which Reich suddenly made famous.

During these years some premieres took place in museums instead of concert halls: The world premiere of "Drumming " took place on December 3, 1971 in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. " Four Organs " premiered at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. "Pendulum Music" premiered at the Whitney Museum in 1969 69. The London premiere of " Tehillim " took place at the Hayward Gallery.

In Europe the working conditions and above all the earning potential were better, which is why he went on his first European tour in 1972 together with the choreographer Laura Dean and also visited Berlin as a scholarship holder of the German Academic Exchange Service .

In 1973 and 1974 he studied the Balinese Gamelan Semar Pegulingan and Gamelan Gambang at the American Society for Eastern Arts in Seattle and in Berkeley / California.

In 1976, at the age of 40, he married his current wife, the video artist Beryl Korot , with whom he had their son Ezra. He became increasingly aware of his Jewish origins, visited Israel in 1977 and incorporated a Jewish context into his work.

From 1976 to 1977 studies of the traditional chant of the Hebrew scriptures followed in New York and Jerusalem.


Steve Reich has been internationally known and successful to a wide audience since the mid-1970s. He lived in New York City until 2006, moved to Vermont, and toured extensively with his ensemble.

The year of Steve Reich's 70th birthday (2006) was celebrated with festivals and special concerts organized by ensembles around the world. On the occasion of his 75th birthday, Steve Reich was honored in 2011 with concerts around the world. The composer also received a lot of attention on his 80th birthday. A number of classical symphony orchestras now also play compositions by Steve Reich. Orchestras with many musicians can, as Reich remarked, sometimes reproduce the difficult duplication of notes better than an ensemble. The instrumental works in particular are often found in concert performance today. For several years now, Reich's compositions have also been an occasion for young pioneers of electronic EDM music for remixes.

The linking of visual impressions (films, videos) and music (he is married to the video artist Beryl Korot ), which he took up in his work " Reich / Richter " (2019), is important for Reich . At the same time, he is open when his music is included in films. some filmmakers have incorporated "Different Trains" into their films.

The Paul Sacher Foundation has met with Steve Reich on 3 December 2008 an agreement to acquire its music archive. It is available for research in the Foundation's archive in Basel.

In the 2013/14 season of the MDR Symphony Orchestra under Kristjan Järvi , Reich was composer in residence .


Alex Ross visited Reich in his New York apartment in 2000. He described him as unpretentious, almost modest. Even his style of clothing reflected this: black button-down shirt and, as a trademark, a baseball cap. Ross noted: "When he starts to speak, you can feel the speed of his thoughts. He can listen as well as he can talk, but the latter at a breathtaking speed. He reacts with lightning speed to the slightest noises in his surroundings (...) Every sound is an information carrier. "

Reich is known for his numerous interviews, some of considerable length, which music journalists appreciate about him. If you read the interviews, you notice that Reich rarely talks about himself, but always works on the subject of music. Personal references only arise when it concerns works, for example with "Different Trains".

Due to his résumé, Reich's compositions only became successful in the late 1970s, Reich often stated that contemporary composers in the USA are more poor than rich. The reason lies in the fact that there is no funding in the USA, unlike in Europe, and a composer is exposed to a high personal risk in music projects. For this reason too, Reich stated that he did most of his practical studies in Europe.

Reich has lived in Vermont since 2006, without a second home in New York. He commented on this in 2011: "I was born in New York City, and you can tell by my voice, the tempo of my speech and the rhythmic energy of my music. I actually got around to excluding all cities and New York in particular to like.


Chronological overview

Early work, the discovery of the phase shift and process music

Double Sextet, 3rd movement (excerpt from the score)

Reich began active creative time around 1958: He occupied himself with electronic music and experimented independently. In the summer of 1970 he studied Ewe drum music at the Institute for African Studies at the University of Ghana in Accra .

In the fall of 1964, Reich made tape experiments. The result of these experiments was " It's Gonna Rain " (1965), after the preacher Brother Walter, with a refined rhythmic pattern. Reich's intention was a "concrete counterpoint " and a canonical structure. In this composition, Reich was influenced by the minimalist Terry Riley, whose work In C combines simple, staggered musical patterns to create a slowly changing, coherent whole. Reich called his process process music for the first time .

In the second half of the 1960s he began to string together short fragments of sound (today one would say “ samples ”) and to shift their phases . For this purpose, Reich used several tape recorders ( Wollensa (c) k tape recorders). This can be heard in his early works, It's Gonna Rain , Melodica and Come Out . These works were followed by works for piano and electric organ ( Four Organs , Piano Phase ).

In 1966, Reich brooded over the mechanics of phase shifting , a topic that would occupy him for life. At the end of 1966 he recorded a short, repeating melodic pattern on the piano, made a tape loop of this pattern, and then tried to play against this loop himself, just as if he were a second tape recorder. He used the phase technique for the first time on a trial basis for the score for Robert Nelson's short film "Oh dem Watermelsons". Reich wrote the scores for three Robert Nelson films: Plastic Haircut , Oh Dem Watermelons and Thick Pucker .

In 1967 he used the phase technique, transferred to instrumental music, in the roughly 20-minute key work " Piano Phase ". It consists of transformations of the first six notes of the A major scale played by two pianists. One pianist plays a pattern and the second varies the tempo and the pattern slightly so that the phase shifts

Here you can see Reich's new technology: How a cool, distant process is increasingly charged with emotion. Reich formulated his new aesthetic in an essay entitled "Music as a gradual Process" and commented on it:

"I'm interested in perceptible processes (...) I want to be able to hear the process all the time as long as the music is playing."

- Steve Reich (1968)

This statement contains Reich's rejection of the classification of his works into minimalist or post-minimalist - Reich means process music , development, variation and cycle as a compositional approach.

First successes

In the following years, Reich consistently applied these techniques in vocal and orchestral works . His turn to minimal music arose from his criticism of so-called serialism , which he studied in his academic training and rejected as an "establishment". Reich's passion for rhythmic, percussive sounds, the rejection of serial music (opposing position to the Eurocentric avant-garde term) and the use of patterns and phasing were impressively reflected in one of his main works, the highly regarded " Drumming " (1971).

The approximately 85-minute work " Drumming" made Reich, then 34 years old, suddenly well known. Recognized as the minimalist “original cell” of Konrad Heidkamp or rather as the “first masterpiece” of minimalism, as K. Robert Schwarz wrote, “ Drumming ” was a vital composition that was later claimed to have changed the course of music history. The composition is representative of the uprising of meter, rhythm and tonality against the serialism of the European avant-garde. It removes all border fences as a crossover between pop and classical music. It is monorhythmic, a mantra , changing and overlapping phrases, fitting into the psychedelic zeitgeist. Each of the four movements is dedicated to a group of percussion instruments: In the first movement there are 2x4 bongos (4 players), in the second movement there are three marimbas in the center (6 players), in the third movement three carillon with accompaniment (6 players) and in the fourth movement In the 2nd movement, all percussion instruments and the ensemble (12 players) unite to a fireworks display of rhythm and light, of energy and ecstasy.

Reich also made use of unconventional instruments, such as human hand clapping (" Clapping Music ", 1972) or sticks (" Music for Pieces of Wood ", 1973) as sound bodies . During this time he wrote works such as Music for Mallet Instruments (1973), Voices and Organ (1973) and Six Pianos (1973).

A key work is " Music for 18 Musicians ", a notated composition for 18 instrumentalists, which he wrote between 1974 and 1976 after his post-minimalist turn. " Music for 18 Musicians " premiered in New York in 1976 and was released as a phonogram in 1978 by ECM Records . With Music for 18 Musicians , Reich was able to differentiate the phasing process and transfer it to an ensemble: By using several instruments, Steve Reich achieved highly complex grids from a wide variety of rhythmic structures. In his two, later, shorter but no less electrifying compositions " Music for a Large Ensemble " (1978) and " Octet " (1979), Reich continued on the path he had taken, while he continued on the path he had taken in " Tehillim " (1981) for voices and ensemble for the first time musically addressed his Jewish origins. Tehillim (1981), Hebrew for psalms, is the first of Reich's works that explicitly refers to his Jewish background.

Works in the 1980s

Reich's work took on a darker character in the 1980s with the introduction of historical themes as well as themes from his Jewish heritage. In the 1980s, two other major works were created, which developed an immense pop-cultural impact far beyond the classical and avant-garde scene. On the one hand he brought out " Electric Counterpoint " (1987) with the electric guitarist Pat Metheny , a three-part piece for no less than nine electric string instruments.

On the other hand, his perhaps most important and very biographical album " Different Trains " (1988) was released. The New York Times praised Different Trains as "a work of such astonishing originality that it calls it little less than a breakthrough ... leaves a harrowing emotional impression." " Different Trains " is a composition for tape and string quartet and is one of the composer's most famous works. Original sounds from Holocaust survivors, train noises as well as voices from the conductors and the nanny who accompanied him on the journeys were layered by Reich in loops and thus enabled a listening experience of synchronous, historical events.

Both " Different Trains " (1988) and " Desert Music " (1984) show references to the vast western part of the USA, which is in contrast to Reich's metropolitan residential area.

Works in the 1990s

Reich's "Typing Music" (1993), a piece from his multimedia vocal work " The Cave", became popular . The composition " City Life " (1995) is a multi-layered sound portrait of New York City. In the 1990s he created some well-known works that were written for marimba or percussion, such as " Nagoya Marimbas " (1995) or " Know what is above " (1999), but also for guitar, such as " Nagoya Guitar " (1994). Perhaps the most striking composition is "Proverb" (1995) for three sopranos, two tenors, two vibraphones, and two electric organs. Embedded is a text by Ludwig Wittgenstein from " Lectures on the Philosophy of Psychology " (1946-1947). " Proverb " sounds like a medieval polyphony . During this period, Reich experimented with the melody of language.

Works in the 2000s

In the 2000s Reich composed some instrumental pieces that he had written for performances in concert halls, such as "Dance Patterns" (2002) or " Cello Counterpoint" (2003). Part of his work dealt with variations on a theme, such as You Are (Variations) (2004) or " Daniel Variations " (2006).

His composition "Double Sextet" (2007), a commission for Eighth Blackbird , received special attention . Reich commented that while composing the 22-minute piece, he had used Igor Stravinski's Agon (1957) as a model. It is divided into three movements with the tempos: fast, slow and fast. The piece is powerfully rhythmically driven by two pianos and two vibraphones. For this composition Reich received the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2009 .

Another important work was " 2x5 " (2008), which is also divided into 3 sets of tempi: fast, slow and fast, and lasts for a comparable 20 minutes. Reich's motivation was to write a rock'n roll piece like " Double Sextet " with " 2x5 ".

An additional aspect of his work was social commentary. The video opera "Three Tales" , published in 2002, relates to 100 years of technological history in human history and deals with the explosion of the airship Hindenburg ( Zeppelin LZ 129 ) in Lakehurst (New Jersey, USA) ("Hindenburg catastrophe" in 1937), US Nuclear weapons tests on Bikini Atoll and the clone sheep Dolly . In a 2000 interview, Reich described his inclination towards technology and its evolution

At the end of the decade, Reich reflected the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York in the composition "WTC 9/11" (2009-10). “WTC 9/11” is a 16-minute work for string quartet, written for the Kronos Quartet . It will be performed with three string quartets, two of which have been recorded in advance and one of which will be played live. The three-movement work is played non-stop, at a steady tempo and contains tape documents to the point.

Works in the 2010s

In the 2010s, instrumental works are the focus of his compositions. “Radio Rewrite” (2012) premiered in 2013 by the London Sinfonietta and received positive reviews. It is a rework of material from the British group Radiohead and another work that builds bridges to popular music. With “Quartet” (2013) and “Pulse” (2015) Reich turned back to his typical ensemble music, while with “Runner” (2016) and “Music for Ensemble and Orchestra” (2018) he turned to larger formats chose. “Music for Ensemble and Orchestra” was his first work, which he wrote for a large orchestra.

His latest composition is “Reich / Richter” (2019), the result of a mutual homage by Steve Reich and the painter Gerhard Richter . Reich combines music and video here, a format that Reich is technologically interested in. Reich's music accompanies a film by Gerhard Richter and Corinna Belz. In 2011 the painter Richter made a series of pictures as a homage to the composer Reich, which inspired Reich to write the piece Reich / Richter.

Commissioned works

Over the years Steve Reich has written numerous commissioned works , including for the London Barbican Center, New York Carnegie Hall, the Holland Festival, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, The Rothko Chapel, the Wiener Festwochen, the Berlin Hebbel Theater, the guitarist Pat Metheny (on behalf of the Brooklyn Academy of Music), the Spoleto Festival in the USA, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), the Turin Settembre Musica, the clarinetist Richard Stoltzman (on behalf of the Fromm Music Foundation), the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra , Kronos Quartet (commissioned by Betty Freeman) and the Festival d'Automne in Paris, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

Work classification

Between minimal music and contemporary music

His compositions are often assigned to (American) Minimal Music , often referred to as representatives of post-minimalist music . The terms “ new music ” or “avant-garde” are also used. The composer Steve Reich himself positioned himself against categorization in comments and interviews (Steve Reich: "I'm interested in doing what really interests me, and that is constantly changing."). From Reich's point of view, the minimalist impression is created by the slowing down of the harmonic rhythm. He also drew the comparison that the complexity of impressionism in painting also makes it difficult to stamp a certain label on contemporary composers. The term contemporary music is probably more correct, because the final epochs cannot yet be defined .

For Alex Ross, the term minimalism is far too diffuse or imprecise. Like other American minimalists, he sees Reich as the successor to American avant-garde composers such as Herny Cowell , Lou Harrison , Conlon Nancarrow or Morton Feldmann , who made use of non-Western musical traditions or, as with Feldmann, used minimal sound packages over a long period of time Distributed routes. He sees Reich as a representative of a harmonious musical language that has led to a modern tonality. The compositions of Reich's middle or later creative period are anything but minimalistic, rather complex. Reich himself remarked that his work from Music for Mallet Instruments (1973) , Voices and Organ (1973) can hardly be classified as minimalist.

General influences on the work

Reich composed chamber music for many years. Many compositions were written for ensemble formats that Reich was able to perform with his ensemble ( Steve Reich and Musicians ). He also wrote music for soloists. His works for multi-member ensembles were adapted as Reich became more well known, and then also by orchestras. The Four Sections , Concerto for Orchestra (1987) is arguably the first composition that Reich wrote with a view to orchestral performances.

Especially with Reich it must be added that Reich, as a trained pianist and drummer, pays a lot of attention to rhythm, which is proven by the frequent use of different percussion instruments or the often percussive use of the piano in his compositions. Embedding tape recordings with voices is also typical for Reich.

Statements of the composer

Reich described his motivation to compose as follows:

"I don't want to be interesting, I want to be passionately loved or passionately hated."

- Steve Reich (1985)

He described his demands on music as follows:

"In my opinion, good art music is always entertaining."

- Steve Reich (1995)

"Music must touch the heart. At the same time, it must be able to withstand a" dispassionate analysis "so that future generations will also be interested," said Reich in an interview with ZEIT 1997 (October 31, 1997).

Compositional approaches

Reich's compositions are characterized by sophistication, repetitive aesthetics and rhythmic complexity. Compositional approaches or techniques that Steve Reich uses or are linked to, etc. a.

  • static harmony
  • Repetition
  • additive (added) elements
  • Phase shift
  • Canon technique
  • Embedding of tape recordings
  • linear process
  • Pattern (short melody and rhythm units)
  • rhythmic structures in a texture
  • Harmonies and melodies
  • Variations
  • References to music of the Middle Ages, Baroque, American jazz (approx. 1950-1965)
  • Inclusion of non-western music .

Importance to other composers

Steve Reich is one of the defining role models for young, contemporary composers. So expressed u. a. Michael Gordon , David Lang , and Julia Wolfe .

The US composer John Adams wrote in 1997: "Perhaps the fact that he is an outsider contributed to the unique originality of his music, a music that has now become one of the most famous styles in the world (...) Reich wanted restore the pleasure principle of contemporary music (...) Pulsation and tonality were not just cultural artefacts for him, they were the lifeblood of musical experience, the laws of nature. It was his triumph to find a way to accept these basic principles and yet one To create music that felt real and new. He didn't reinvent the bike as much when he showed us a new way of riding. "


His music is contemporary history in the best sense of the word, reflecting contemporary life and thinking, fears and joys of the present. From a technical point of view, Steve Reich's compositions are, to a large extent, the prehistoric prototype of everything that is called loops, samplings, etc. today. Accordingly, it is characterized primarily by two main features: On the one hand, repetitive, mantra-like structures, which are created by a sequence in constant repetition of the smallest melodic, rhythmic or harmonic parts. And the so-called phase shifting, a phase shift of these individual parts in different voices that create a perceptible carpet of sound.

“I am happy when people deal with my works. Musicians, some of whom I don't even know and who are 40 years younger than me, are interested in my work. Everyone is happy when the things they do are useful for others and I know that my music has influenced composers like Michael Nyman, David Lang or Phil Glass. "

- Steve Reich

Also noteworthy is the interaction of Reich's compositions between the recourse to previous popular or jazz music and at the same time the incorporation of the latest musical trends. The interaction is expressed in "Radio Rewrite" (2013), a reinterpretation of his rock approach from " Electric Counterpoint " and some earlier pieces. Inspirational starting points for the composition are two Radiohead tracks "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" and "Everything In Its Right Place".

It is also undisputed that Reich's techniques inspired other artists. Examples are Michael Nyman , Philip Glass , Lou Reed , Brain Eno or John Cale . Brain Eno attended a concert by Steve Reich and musicians in 1974 and was fascinated by the music and the phase shift. For the album "For your Pleasure" by Roxy Music , Eno built in a phase shift, later he adapted these approaches as a solo artist in his " Ambient Music ".

The British daily The Guardian wrote about his life's work: "There are only a handful of living composers who can rightly claim for themselves, to have changed the course of music history and Steve Reich is one of them."


Major orchestras and ensembles around the world have performed Steve Reich's music, such as the London Symphony Orchestra , the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra , all under Michael Tilson Thomas , the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under Edo de Waart , the New Yorkers Philharmoniker under Zubin Mehta , the Ensemble Modern under Bradley Lubman , the Ensemble Intercontemporain under David Robertson , London Sinfonietta under Markus Stenz and Martyn Brabbins , the Theater of Voices under Paul Hillier , the Schönberg Ensemble under Reinbert de Leeuw , the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra under Robert Spano, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin , the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Neal Stulberg, the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Peter Eötvös . In Germany a. a. the MDR symphony orchestra under Kristjan Järvi . Numerous ensembles a. a. Bang on a Can interpreted Reich's works.

Several well-known choreographers have performed ballet dances to Steve Reich's music, including Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (“Fase”, 1983, for four early works and for Drumming , 1998, and “Rain” for Music for 18 Musicians ), Jirí Kylían (“Falling Angels “On Drumming Part I ), Jerome Robbins for the New York City Ballet ( Eight Lines ) and Laura Dean , who commissioned Sextet . The resulting ballet, "Impact," premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival and earned Steve Reich and Laura Dean a 1986 Bessie Award. Other outstanding choreographers who have worked with Reich's music include Eliot Feld , Alvin Ailey , Lar Lubovitch, Maurice Béjart , Lucinda Childs , Siobhan Davies and Richard Alston.

Awards (selection)

year Award
1989 Grammy for the composition " Different Trains "
1994 Admission to the American Academy of Arts and Letters
1995 Admission to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts
1999 Grammy for the composition " Music for 18 Musicians "
1999 Appointment as Commandeur de l'ordre des Arts et Lettres
2000 Schuman-Price from Columbia University
2000 Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College
2000 Regent's Lectureship at the University of California at Berkeley
2000 Honorary Doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts
2000 Voted Composer of the Year by Musical America
2006 Praemium Imperiale (“Nobel Prize for the Arts”) in the music category
2007 Polar music award
2007 Admission to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
2007 Inclusion of "It's Gonna Rain" in The Wire's "100 Records That Set The World On Fire (While No One Was Listening)"
2009 Pulitzer Prize for the composition Double Sextet
2011 Honorary Doctorate from the New England Conservatory of Music
2012 "Gold Medal in Music" from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
2013 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the "Contemporary Music" category
2014 Golden Lion as part of the 58th International Festival of Contemporary Music at the Venice Biennale
2016 Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Music in London

Compositions (chronological)


  • Film music for Plastic Haircut , for tape (1963)
  • Music for two or more pianos (1964)
  • Livelihood (1964)
  • It's Gonna Rain (1965)
  • Film music for Oh Dem Watermelons , for tape (1965)
  • Come Out (1966)
  • Melodica , for melodica and tape (1966)
  • Reed Phase , for soprano saxophone or any other reed instrument and tape, or three reed instruments (1966)
  • Piano Phase , for two pianos, or two marimbas (1967)
  • Slow Motion Sound , concept piece (1967)
  • Violin Phase , for violin and tape or four violins (1967)
  • My Name Is , for speaking voices (1967)
  • Pendulum Music , for microphones and amplifiers (1968)
  • Pulse Music , for phase shifting pulse gate (1969)
  • Four log drums , for four log drums and phase shifting pulse gate (1969)


  • Four Organs , for four electric organs and maracas (1970)
  • Phase Patterns , for four electric organs (1970)
  • Drumming , for 4 pairs of tuned bongo drums, 3 marimbas, 3 glockenspiels, 2 female voices, whistling and piccol (1970–71)
  • Clapping Music , for two musicians clapping (1972)
  • Music for Pieces of Wood , for five pairs of tuned claves (1973)
  • Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973)
  • Six Pianos (1973) (also arranged as Six Marimbas (1986) and Piano Counterpoint (2011))
  • Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973)
  • Music for 18 Musicians (1974-76)
  • Music for a Large Ensemble (1978)
  • Variations for Winds, Strings, and Keyboards for solo instruments and orchestra (1979)
  • Octet for flutes, pianos, woodwinds and strings (1979)


  • Marimba phase (1980)
  • Tehillim for voices and ensemble (1981)
  • Vermont Counterpoint , for amplified flute and tape (1982)
  • Eight Lines (1983)
  • The Desert Music , for choir and orchestra or voices and ensemble (1984) (with texts by William Carlos Williams)
  • Sextet , for two pianos, synthesizer and percussion (1984)
  • New York Counterpoint , for amplified clarinet and tape, or 11 clarinets and bass clarinet (1985)
  • Six Marimbas (1986)
  • Three Movements for Orchestra (1986)
  • Electric Counterpoint , for electric guitar or amplified acoustic guitar and tape (1987)
  • The Four Sections , for orchestra (1987)
  • Different Trains , for string quartet and tape (1988)


  • The Cave, multimedia oratorio in three parts, for four voices, ensemble and video (1990-93)
  • Duet , for two violins and string ensemble (1993) ( dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin )
  • Typing Music (from: The Cave, 1993)
  • Nagoya Marimbas , for two marimbas (1994)
  • Proverb for voices and ensemble (1995) (with a text by Ludwig Wittgenstein)
  • City Life , for amplified ensemble (1995)
  • Nagoya Guitars (1994, transcribed 1996)
  • Triple Quartet , for amplified string quartet (with prerecorded tape), or three string quartets, or string orchestra (1998)
  • Know What Is Above You , for four women's voices and 2 tamborims (1999)


  • Electric Guitar Phase (2000)
  • Tokyo / Vermont Counterpoint , for marimbas (2000)
  • Three Tales , for video projection, five voices and ensemble (1998–2002) (with Beryl Korot)
  • Dance Patterns , for 2 xylophones, 2 vibraphones and 2 pianos (2002)
  • Cello Counterpoint , for amplified cello and multichannel tape (2003)
  • You Are (Variations) , for voices and ensemble (2004)
  • For Strings (with Winds and Brass) , for orchestra (1987/2004)
  • Variations for Vibes, Pianos and Strings , dance piece for three string quartets, four vibraphones, and two pianos (2005)
  • Daniel Variations for four voices and ensemble (2006)
  • Double Sextet , for 2 violins, 2 cellos, 2 pianos, 2 vibraphones, 2 clarinets, 2 flutes or ensemble and pre-recorded tape (2007)
  • 2x5 , for 2 drum sets, 2 pianos, 4 electric guitars and 2 bass guitars (2008)
  • Mallet Quartet , for 2 marimbas and 2 vibraphones or 4 marimbas (or solo percussion and tape) (2009)


  • WTC 9/11 , for string quartet and tape (2009-2010)
  • Radio Rewrite , for ensemble (2012)
  • Quartet , for 2 vibraphones and 2 pianos (2013/2014)
  • Pulse , for winds, strings, piano and electric bass (2015)
  • Runner , for large ensemble (2016)
  • Music for Ensemble and Orchestra (2018)
  • Reich / Richter , for large ensemble of 14 players (2019) (soundtrack for a film about Gerhard Richter by Corinna Belz)

Music publisher

Steve Reich publishes his work with Boosey & Hawkes , a Concord Records company .


  • Keith Potter: Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass . In: Music in the Twentieth Century series . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000 (English).
  • Steve Reich, Paul Hillier (Eds.): Writings on Music, 1965-2000 . Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-511171-0 , pp. 272 (English).
  • Steve Reich: Writings About Music . Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax 1974, ISBN 0-919616-02-X , pp. 78 (English).
  • Georg Sachse: speech melodies, mixed sounds, breaths. Phonetic aspects in Steve Reich's vocal work . Gustav Bosse Verlag, Kassel 2004, ISBN 3-7649-2702-X , p. 269 .
  • DJ Hoek: Steve Reich: A Bio-Bibliography, Greenwood, 2001, ISBN 978-0313312076 (English)


  • Steve Reich, Phase to Face. Documentation, France, 2009, 52 min., Directors: Éric Darmon and Frank Mallet, production: Arte France, Mémoire Magnétique, German first broadcast: September 28, 2009, synopsis by arte - DVD release 02/2011 at EuroArts catalog no. 3058128

Web links

Commons : Steve Reich  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Audio samples

Individual evidence

  1. Editor: Compact & Visuell Classical Music . Ed .: Dorling Kindersley. Dorling Kindersley Verlag, Munich, ISBN 978-3-8310-3136-8 , pp. 440 .
  2. a b c d e f g h Steve Reich. In: Boosey & Hawkes . 2018, accessed December 7, 2019 .
  3. a b c d e f g h i Joachim Gauger et al .: biography Steve Reich. In: According to AG, accessed on December 4, 2019 .
  4. a b c d e f g h i Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise . 2nd Edition. Piper Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05301-3 , pp. 548 f .
  5. a b c d e f g h Resident Advisor: Steve Reich. In: . Resident Advisor, 2011, accessed December 7, 2019 .
  6. ^ A b Rebecca Y. Kim and Steve Reich: From New York to Vermont: Conversation with Steve Reich. In: . Steve Reich, 2000, accessed December 4, 2019 .
  7. a b c d e Bruce Duffie; Steve Reich: Steve Reich - Two Conversations with Bruce Duffie. In: 1995, accessed December 7, 2019 .
  8. a b DW editorial staff: Steve Reich: Composers reflect their time and place. In: . DW Deutsche Welle, 2011, accessed on December 7, 2019 .
  9. Alex Petridis: Steve Reich on Schoenberg, Coltrane and Radiohead In: The Guardian of March 1, 2013.
  10. Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise . 2nd Edition. Piper Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05301-3 , pp. 555 .
  11. ^ A b c Carol Ann Cheung: Reich / Richter: An Interview with Steve Reich. In: Boosey & Hawkes . March 2019, accessed December 8, 2019 (English, interview).
  12. Steve Reich. In: Paul Sacher Foundation , accessed December 9, 2019
  13. a b Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise . 2nd Edition. Piper Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05301-3 , pp. 547 ff .
  14. a b c Jakob Buhre: I am inspired by the technology that surrounds us. In: Planet Interview. August 14, 2000, accessed December 7, 2019 (interview).
  15. ^ Baumgärtel, Tilman: grinding. On the history and aesthetics of the loop . Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-86599-271-0 , p. 251-264 .
  16. a b c Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise . 2nd Edition. Piper Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05301-3 , pp. 551 f .
  17. a b Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise . 2nd Edition. Piper Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05301-3 , pp. 552 f .
  18. Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise, 2nd edition, Piper Verlag, Munich, 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05301-3 , p. 552
  19. ^ A b Eleonore Büning: The rhythm rehearses the revolt. FAZ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, October 3, 2016, accessed on December 11, 2019 .
  20. Thomas Schulz: Steve Reich on CD. In: . BR Klassik, September 30, 2016, accessed December 4, 2019 .
  21. a b Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise . 2nd Edition. Piper Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05301-3 , pp. 522 ff .
  22. ^ A b New Steve Reich - Gerhard Richter film project premieres at The Shed. In: Boosey & Hawkes , March 2019.
  23. Steve Reich: Second Interview with Michael Nyman (1976) . In: Steve Reich and Paul Hillie (eds.): Writings on Music 1965–2000 (2004) . Oxford Scholarship, La Rochelle 1976, ISBN 978-0-19-515115-2 .
  24. ^ Steve Reich: Writings on Music . Steve Reich: Writings on Music, New York 2002, pp. 161 .
  25. John Leigh: Investigations into Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians . In: TU Berlin (Ed.): Dissertation . Berlin 2010, p. 138 .
  26. John Adams: Steve Reich. In: . Steve Reich, 1997, accessed December 9, 2019 .
  27. Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise . 2nd Edition. Piper Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05301-3 , pp. 561 .
  28. ^ The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Music with a short biography.
  29. ^ Steve Reich homepage
  30. Jenn Pelly: Steve Reich to Perform Piece Inspired By Radiohead. In: Pitchfork Media , January 27, 2012 (English).