Yoko Ono. Divisive to many, divine to few. And a patron saint of confident weirdness to certain odd souls, myself included.
Steve Reich is possibly my favorite living composer. His strain of mimimalism has coursed its way through several branches of the tree of modern music. These ideas have proved to be the backbone for a plethora of genres and soundscapes we enjoy today.
His music feels like the core of something – the central axis of entire galaxies of sound. Anyone hoping for a solid grounding in modern music needs to get closer. Reich is scriptural-level essential. His tones are so identifiable that once you’re familiar, you’ll start to notice the signature embedded in everything.
I’m hoping to avoid giving the impression that listening to Reich is akin to homework, so here’s the real score:
This is some of the trippiest, most hypnotic, enveloping and overwhelming music I’ve laid ears on. The style may be minimalism, but it only feels that way if your volume is turned improperly low.
Here is a first taste of Reich: The original Music For 18 Musicians on ECM records.
While not necessarily the man’s best composition, Music For 18 Musicians is a wonderful introduction to the unique harmonic building blocks with which Reich constructs his work. Warm oscillations breed an inviting serenity in the first moments, and the listener is quickly whisked down a gently cascading river of sublimity. Based around an ABCDCBA structure, each section melodically deconstructs a given chord and rebuilds it; every bit is cyclical, and the whole piece winds into itself at the end. Perfect symmetry. It sounds simple, and it is. Nothing has ever been so divine.
[grab this original ECM recording from amazon – there are several other recordings of this work which I will be covering in the future]