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Steve Reich

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Steve Reich

Biography

Stephen Michael Reich (b. 3 October 1936, New York, N.Y.) is an American composer.

Reich was born to the Broadway lyricist June Sillman and Leonard Reich. He was given piano lessons as a child and describes growing up with the "middle-class favorites", having no exposure to music written before 1750 or after 1900. At the age of 14 he began to study music in earnest, after hearing music from the Baroque period and earlier, as well as music of the 20th century. Reich studied drums with Roland Kohloff in order to play jazz. While attending Cornell University, he minored in music and graduated in 1957 with a B.A. in philosophy. Reich's B.A. thesis was on Ludwig Wittgenstein; later he would set texts by that philosopher to music in Proverb (1995) and You Are (variations) (2006).

For a year following graduation, Reich studied composition privately with Hall Overton before he enrolled at Juilliard to work with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti. Subsequently, he attended Mills College in Oakland, California, where he studied with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud and earned a master's degree in composition. At Mills, Reich composed Melodica for melodica and tape.

Reich, 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 and the use of simple, audible processes to explore musical concepts. These compositions, marked by their use of repetitive figures, slow harmonic rhythm and canons, have significantly influenced contemporary music, especially in the US. 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, notably Different Trains.

Writing in The Guardian, music critic Andrew Clements suggested that Reich is one of "a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history". The American composer and critic Kyle Gann has said that Reich "may ... be considered, by general acclamation, America's greatest living composer".


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