Michael Gordon, David Lang, & Julia Wolfe

Quite frankly, it is impossible to imagine our world without Steve’s music. When the three of us met, first as friends and then more formally as Bang on a Can, Steve’s music was the music that we played for each other, that we discussed, that we meditated on. Steve’s music was the music that had changed our world. From his first compositions—the tape pieces Come Out and It’s Gonna Rain—it was clear that Steve had unleashed the hidden and locked-up power of the sounds between the sounds. The pulse, the elegance, the language of those pieces were about to start a revolution that would change music for all of us.

Nobody knew this at the time, of course. Certainly we didn’t. We were about eight years old when those pieces were written, and it would still be a decade or so until we heard them. And by the time we heard them, Steve had moved on, taking those tape ideas and applying them to live musicians, creating a completely new kind of instrumental music. Steve invented a way of locking players together in a multi-textural groove of African drumming, high-tech canons, and classic jazz. In those early days there was no path for Steve Reich to walk down, no superhighway of ensembles and commissions and overflowing audiences. His music was so fresh that people had to grasp for a way to understand and define it. People in the art world got it, people in the loft scene got it, but people in the mainstream couldn’t figure out how to listen to this music. He was becoming an underground sensation.

Let’s jump forward to today. Here we are in Carnegie Hall, so something must have changed. Steve’s music has filtered into the consciousness of our society, and both it and its ideas can now be heard everywhere, implanted into the subconscious of several generations of creative musicians and listeners. Even the most casual look at the music world shows the wide breadth of his influence: Classical, Electronica, New Age, RockCinematic. Steve’s influence is everywhere. People have figured out how to listen.

In the history of music, this kind of originality and this kind of impact show up only rarely. It is a tribute both to Steve and to the world we live in that these strikingly original ideas are now very present, all around us, and celebrated in their own time.

Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe are the Artistic Directors of Bang on a Can.