Ladies and Gentlemen and members of the Academy,
I’m sorry not to be there in person, but if I were this is what I would say: Steve Reich is both a startlingly original composer and a trailblazer. Some startlingly original composers are sui generis, isolated wonders. But the important ones cast long shadows. Steve’s experiments with phase music and the musical use of spoken fragments have alone opened the ears of many younger composers as well as some elderly ones like myself. In fact, stealing ideas from him is one of the more satisfying pleasures that I’ve had. I only wish the opportunity arose more often, but, unfortunately, it’s not always appropriate.
Seriously, one measure of an artist’s size is indeed the influence he has on others. If it were only for that Steve would be a worthy recipient of the Academy’s Gold Medal for Music. But, of course, his work is much more than influential. It’s a constant delight, by turns dramatic and joyful, its energy infectious, its surprises exhilarating. It is not a coincidence, but astonishing nonetheless, that he comes from a show business family. Show business may not produce much art but, on occasion, it can produce a first-rate artist, even if indirectly, as this award attests.
Recorded for the May 16, 2012 award ceremony to introduce STEVE REICH, who is receiving the Gold Medal for Music. Mr Sondheim was in China.