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

The Real Bob Ross: Meet The Meticulous Artist Behind Those Happy Trees

Don't be fooled by his mild PBS persona; the beloved painter was actually an exacting artist and businessman with — brace yourself — naturally straight hair.
NPR

A Chocolate Pill? Scientists To Test Whether Cocoa Extract Boosts Health

Chocolate lovers may agree cocoa is the food of the gods, but how strong is the evidence that it boosts heart health? Researchers are recruiting for a new study aimed at answering this question.
WAMU 88.5

D.C. Department Shakeup Raises Questions About Pay-To-Play Politics

Turnover at a major D.C. government department is raising questions about local businesses, political contributions and influence in city politics.

WAMU 88.5

How Many Times Were You Late? Metro Is Keeping Track Of It Just For You

If you log into your SmarTrip account, you'll notice that Metro has started providing individualized trip analysis. It's called MyTripTime, and it measures the time from when you tap in, to when you tap out.

Leave a Comment

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