Steve Reich In-depth Biography
Following in the footsteps of La Monte Young} and Terry Riley}, composer Steve Reich} is widely considered the third major pioneer of minimalism; credited as the innovator behind phasing -- a process whereby two tape loops lined up in unison gradually move out of phase with each other, ultimately coming back into sync -- his early experiments in tape manipulation also anticipated the emergence of hip-hop sampling by well over a decade. Reich} was born October 3, 1936 in New York City, and later studied philosophy at Cornell University; while at the Juilliard School of Music, he turned to composition, finally landing at Mills College in Oakland, California under the tutelage of avant-garde composers Luciano Berio} and Darius Milhaud}. During his collegiate years, Reich} supported himself by drumming professionally; however, when his academic career drew to a close in 1963, he turned to driving a cab.
Around that same time, Reich} completed his first major compositions, Pitch Charts} and the experimental film score Plastic Haircut}. 1964's Music for Three or More Pianos} was his first work to make use of tape loops, followed a year later by the landmark It's Gonna Rain}, a phased piece constructed out of a 13-second sample of a sermon by the minister Brother Walter}. Reich} again applied his phasing manipulations to the recorded voice on 1966's Come Out}, but with 1967's Piano Phase} and Violin Phase} he began employing the process on acoustic instruments. Subsequent works continued expanding the parameters of the phasing concept -- while the above-mentioned Violin Phase} could be played with one violin and electronic tape or with four violins, 1971's extended Drumming} (inspired by a journey to Ghana) was scored for four pairs of bongos, three marimbas, three glockenspiels, and voice.
Reich's} subsequent work veered from quintessential minimalism (1972's self-explanatory Clapping Music}) to orchestral compositions (1976's Music for Eighteen Musicians}, again everything its title promises), with the latter aesthetic becoming his primary focus in later years. Rarely recorded throughout his first decades as an artist, during the 1980s Reich's} major works finally began appearing on album, among them 1988's brilliant Different Trains}, a Holocaust-inspired piece created for live string quartet, pre-recorded string quartet and sampled voices. (On LP it was paired with Electric Counterpoint}, a composition for jazz guitarist Pat Metheny} which was later sampled by the UK ambient duo the Orb on their hit "Little Fluffy Clouds.") Reich's} Jewish heritage continued playing a central role in his later work as well -- 1994's multi-media piece The Cave} retold the story of the prophet Abraham. As Reich's} trailblazing work came into fashion with the wave of late-'90s electronica, the remix album Reich Remixed} appeared in 1999. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide