Steve Reich Music For 18 Musicians Analysis

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One of the most influential American composers from the 20th century is Steve Reich. Steve Reich was born in New York on October 3, 1936. It is believed that his mother, a songwriter who also had a connection with music, influenced his affinity towards music. Reich studied philosophy at Cornell University and composition at the Julliard School of Music. He studied with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti, while he received his M.A. degree at Mills College (California), and his mentors were Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud. He is the founder of the Steve Reich Ensemble, which was created because no other ensemble was either capable or willing to perform his early pieces. This ensemble, which at times numbered eighteen or more musicians,…show more content…
“Music for 18 Musicians” is an excellent example of pulse music. In terms of structure, instrumentation and harmony are unique, compared to his previous works. The basic material consist of a sequence of eleven chords which are heard at the beginning and the end of the work. These chords, repeated in pulsing and sustained notes for the length of two breaths of the bass clarinetists, are examined one by one over a period of five minutes as the basic harmony over which longer musical periods are later elaborated. The piece has an arch structure: A B C D C B A. Rhythmically this work has two distinctive features: the regular pulse of the piano and percussion and the rhythm of the human breathing in the vocal and wind parts, and the interaction between them brings about a remarkable effect of wave motion. The vibraphone player in this piece functions as a “conductor” by indicating when the players have to switch from one section to the next, or when the harmony or melody should change within a…show more content…
If we compare his music to the composers from the Baroque, Classical or even the Romantic era, we can find one very important difference: the music of Steve Reich is a state, while the music of Beethoven, for example, is a process. With that idea in mind, I believe that even though music is an art of time and organizing pitches or notes, Steve Reich gave time a significant role in his pieces. Time was an extremely important factor in his music, which separated him from other musicians. Another interesting aspect of his creation is giving the spoken word or poetry a lot of attention while writing the music, and by that we can also consider him a multimedia artist. As I mentioned before, we cannot connect his music with the past musical epochs (or at least not as bold as we might consider a true influence from some other composers’ styles). However, in my opinion, Steve Reich, and in fact all the American minimalists, influenced the new popular music, especially electronic music that is also built upon models and shorter musical phrases, which are repeated for a large number of times. Steve Reich’s influence over today’s music is one of the biggest in the musical history. The timing and unique style of Reich’s music impacted other musicians during his time and still influences musicians today. Not only did he give a sustainable way of composing new classical or contemporary
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