Writings on Music 1965-2000

In the mid-1960s, Steve Reich radically renewed the musical landscape with a back-to-basics sound that came to be called Minimalism. These early works, characterized by a relentless pulse and static harmony, focused single-mindedly on the process of gradual rhythmic change. Throughout his career, Reich has continued to reinvigorate the music world, drawing from a wide array of classical, popular, sacred, and non-western idioms. His works reflect the steady evolution of an original musical mind.

Writings on Music documents the creative journey of this thoughtful, groundbreaking composer. These 64 short pieces include Reich’s 1968 essay “Music as a Gradual Process,” widely considered one of the most influential pieces of music theory in the second half of the 20th century. Subsequent essays, articles, and interviews treat Reich’s early work with tape and phase shifting, showing its development into more recent work with speech melody and instrumental music. Other essays recount his exposure to non-western music — African drumming, Balinese gamelan, Hebrew cantillation — and the influence of these musics as structures and not as sounds. The writings include Reich’s reactions to and appreciations of the works of his contemporaries (John Cage, Luciano Berio, Morton Feldman, Gyorgy Ligeti) and older composers (Kurt Weill, Schoenberg). Each major work of the composer’s career is also explored through notes written for performances and recordings.

Paul Hillier, himself a respected figure in the early music and new music worlds, has revisited these texts, working with the author to clarify their central narrative: the aesthetic and intellectual development of an influential composer. For long-time listeners and young musicians recently introduced to his work, this book provides an opportunity to get to know Reich’s music in greater depth and perspective.

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“Steve Reich’s music struck me by its originality, directness and ingenuity. Its very simple building principles lead to a highly complex and rich music. Utterly enjoyable, it is by no means simple. On the contrary, it is in a very elegant way surprisingly sophisticated.”
– György Ligeti, composer

“When I moved to NYC at the end of the 1970s, Steve Reich’s music hit me with a ferocity equal to that of all the exciting rock-based music (from Television to Glenn Branca to DNA) being made at the time. My admiration for and inspiration from his music has not let up ever since. His is some of the most important music to be made in the twentieth century, and to read him write about it with such clarity sheds new light on it.”
– Lee Ranaldo, guitarist, Sonic Youth

“At last — an indispensible glimpse into the mind of one of the most significant composers of the late 20th century. Steve Reich’s 1968 text ‘Music as a Gradual Process’ was a statement as revolutionary as the musical practice it describes.”
– Michael Nyman, composer

“Steve Reich’s ‘voice’ is unmistakable — whether in his compositions, his conversations, or his writings on music. Energetic, erudite, often wittily self-referential, Reich’s texts offer the same headlong rush of ideas that makes his compositions so breathtaking. This book gives us a unique insight into one of the most eloquent and important composers of our time.”
– John Schaefer, host of “New Sounds”

“Steve Reich changed music, across the board, and every thinking musician is in his debt. From Arvo Part to David Bowie, from Ligeti to U2, from the concert hall to the midnight rave — Reich has changed the way we make music. His trademark sound — formal clarity and rigor, manifested in terms of simple beauty — is reflected in these articles and interviews. His writing resonates as deeply as his music.”
– Evan Ziporyn, Professor of Music, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and clarinetist, Bang on a Can All Stars

Table of Contents

Steve Reich Foreword
Steve Reich Foreword to Writings about Music 1974
Paul Hillier Foreword
Paul Hillier Introduction

Writings 1965-2000

1. Early Works 1965-68
It’s Gonna Rain 1965
Come Out – Melodica – Piano Phase 1966-7
Violin Phase 1967
Slow Motion Sound 1967
My name is… 1967
Pendulum Music 1968
2. Music as a Gradual Process 1968
3. Wavelength 1968
4. The Phase-Shifting Pulse Gate – Four Organs – Phase Patterns -An End to Electronics 1968-70 5. Some Optimistic Predictions 1970
6. First Interview with Michael Nyman 1970
Early Works – African drumming
7. Gahu 1971
8. Drumming 1971
9. Clapping Music 1972
10. Postscript to a brief study of Balinese and African music 1973
11. Notes on Music and Dance 1973
12. Six Pianos 1973
13. Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ 1973
14. Music for Pieces of Wood 1973
15. Steve Reich and Musicians 1973
16. Music and Performance 1969-74; 1993
17a. Videotape and a Composer 1974
b. Dachau 1974 – by Beryl Korot
18. Music for 18 Musicians 1976
19. Second Interview with Michael Nyman 1976
Music for 18 Musicians
20. Music for a Large Ensemble 1978
21. Octet 197
22. Variations 1979
23. Tehillim 1981
24. Hebrew Cantillation 1982
25. Vermont Counterpoint 1982
26. Eight Lines 1983
27. The Desert Music 1984
28. The Desert Music – Steve Reich in conversation with Jonathan Cott 1984
29. Sextet 1985
30. New York Counterpoint 1985
31. Three Movements 1986
32. Six Marimbas 1986
33. Tenney 1986
34. Texture-Space-Survival 1987
35. The Four Sections 1987
36. Electric Counterpoint 1987
37. Non-Western Music and the Western Composer 1988
38. Different Trains 1988
39. Chamber Music- An expanded view 1989
40. Questionnaire 1989
41. On the size and seating of an orchestra 1990
42. Aaron Copland 1990 43. John Cage 1992
44. Kurt Weill, the orchestra and vocal style – An Interview with K. Robert Schwarz 1992
45. The Cave 1993
A new type of Music Theater
46. Jonathan Cott interview – The Cave 1993
47. Thoughts about the Madness in Abraham’s Cave 1994
48. Answers to Questions about Different Trains 1994
49. Duet 1994
50. Nagoya Marimbas 1994
51. The Future of Music 1994
52. Beautiful/Ugly 1994
53. Re: Schoenberg 1995
54. City Life 1995
55. Proverb 1996
56. Music and Language 1996
57. Morton Feldman 1997
58. Berio 1997
59. Three Tales 1998-2002
60. Triple Quartet 1999
61. Know what is above you 1999
62. Two Questions about Opera 1999
63. Ligeti 2000
64. De Keersmaeker, Kylian and European Dance 2000
65. In conversation with Paul Hillier 2000 Bibliography Index