Steve Reich Research Paper

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Contemporary minimalist music was pioneered by one of America’s greatest composers, Steve Reich. Born and raised in both New York and California, Reich developed ideas that he would later use in award winning pieces such as Different Trains. After graduating from Cornell University with honors in philosophy, Reich went on to study composition at Julliard School of Music (Reich). In 1965 Reich made a discovery through the use of two identical recorded tapes overlapping over one another. The piece, called It’s Gonna Rain, was his first step into his role in changing the music world. As the two tapes overlapped with each other, they move out of sync very gradually and start to develop a technique called “phasing.” Reich became extremely interested…show more content…
Reich is a contemporary minimalist composer and minimalism is defined by as “a reductive style or school of modern music utilizing only simple sonorities, rhythms, and patterns, with minimal embellishment or orchestrational complexity, and characterized by protracted repetition of figurations, obsessive structural rigor, and often a pulsing, hypnotic effect.” He paved the pathway for many other minimalist composers beginning in the mid to late 1960s. This music is revolutionary because it does not include major orchestration that other famous composers, like Bach, included in their work. Rather, it includes only a few notes or instruments, utilized through repetition, to create a musical process that develops its own structure. The idea that music is only major orchestrational pieces with intense complexity is now abolished. Minimalist pieces use pulse and rhythm to develop structure. Through his use of recording tapes, he discovered minimalism in his piece, It’s Gonna Rain. He began by recording two tapes of a bible thumper on the street and then playing them one directly after the other. While listening to the overlapping tapes he began to see how the tapes would begin to synchronize and then desynchronize, also known as phasing-in and phasing-out. This process, mentioned above, became known as “phasing” and allowed Reich to…show more content…
The answer was gradual understanding. Reich used gradual understanding to analyze the musical process that creates, “the note-to-note (sound-to-sound) details and the overall form simultaneously. (Think of a round or infinite cannon.)” (Schwartz, 422). He gives examples that resemble the gradual musical process: “pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest; turning over an hour glass and watching the sand slowly run through the bottom; placing your feet in the sand by the ocean's edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them” (Schwartz, 422). Through this method of intense listening he found a way to pinpoint the place in the music where the sound shifts away from intention towards unintended details of sound. According to Reich, “Focusing in on a musical process makes possible a shift of attention away from he and she and you and me, outwards toward it” (Nyman, 230). The “it” he describes are those tiny byproducts of the musical process. He realized that although he may create the material used in one of his pieces, he does not create the structure of the piece. The material and process are what creates the structure as the piece is played

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