At 75, Steve Reich Is Still The Center Of Attention | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

At 75, Steve Reich Is Still The Center Of Attention

Play associated audio

American composer Steve Reich turned 75 this week. The so-called "minimalist" credits jazz, African drumming and Balinese gamelan for inspiring his signature style. His music, from experimental tape loops to the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Double Sextet," has inspired the generations of composers who followed.

In the early 1960s, when Reich was beginning his composition career, the contemporary classical music scene was dominated by atonal music like the works of Pierre Boulez.

"It fell to my generation to basically say, 'Basta! Enough!' " Reich says.

Composer David Lang says he first heard Reich's It's Gonna Rain on an LP he came across at the record store where he worked.

"I had never been prepared to hear anything like this," Lang says. "It didn't have a melody; it didn't have harmony, at least the way I had been prepared to understand it; it didn't have a way of progressing. And I remember thinking, 'This is the coolest thing I ever heard in my life.' I was 17 years old. I started thinking, the role of the composer is to experiment and explore and to find something new."

Reich's music became hugely influential, and not just for Lang. Artists such as Brian Eno, David Bowie and The National's Bryce Dessner, as well as practitioners of hip-hop and house music, all owe something to the composer.

"For a lot of musicians like myself, I think Steve Reich's appeal is quite broad, and in a way just to open this big space for musicians to move in," says Dessner, who is also a classical guitarist and composer.

But Washington Post critic Tim Page says it's not just Reich's past music that intrigues his fans.

"One of the things that's really sort of extraordinary about Steve Reich is that he's 75, and yet he's still to whom everybody looks with great interest to see what he'll do next," Page says. "And that's a rarity — especially a rarity with a very radical composer."

Reich himself is always looking forward. He says his 75th-birthday wish has already come true.

"That young musicians around the world want to and actually do play my music very well," he says, "and to go around and hear that, in reality, is the best present a composer could ask for."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Miss Colombia Wins Pageant; Miss Jamaica Wins Twitter?

Days later, bad feelings linger among the Miss Universe pageant viewers who believe that the wrong contestant won. Many watchers on social media say Miss Jamaica should being wearing the crown.
NPR

Watch 'Bob's Burgers'? Now You Can Eat Them, Too

What happens when you try to make a burger out of a pun? One blog, two years, and dozens of recipes later, millions of fans can now cook up their very own Bob's burgers.
NPR

Obama Administration Won't Seek To End 529 College Tax Break

All 50 states and the District of Columbia sponsor 529 plans. Critics had called the proposal to limit them a tax hike on the middle class.
NPR

Facebook Suffers Self-Inflicted Outage

A Facebook statement said the disruption was caused by a technical change it made to the site and wasn't a cyberattack. The outage lasted an hour.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.