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Steve Reich

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Biography

Steve Reich
Born: Oct 3, 1936 in New York, NY
Genre: Classical
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, CA, under the tutelage of 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 cab-driving.

Around that same time, Reich completed his first major compositions: Pitch Charts and the experimental film score Plastic Haircut. Issued in 1964, Music for Two 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: 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 moved from quintessential minimalism (1972's self-explanatory Clapping Music) to orchestral compositions (1976's Music for 18 Musicians), with the latter aesthetic becoming his primary focus in later years. Although Reich was rarely recorded throughout his first decades as an artist, during the 1980s his 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 that was later sampled by the U.K. 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. 1993's multimedia 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. During the 2000s his major releases have included 2001’s Triple Quartet; 2003's Three Tales, a collaborative project with his wife, video artist Beryl Korot; and 2008’s Daniel Variations. In 2010, he composed his third commission for the Kronos Quartet, WTC 9/11.

As critics and other have recognized the lasting significance of Reich's work, he and his music have been honored in a variety of ways. These include two Grammys (1989 for Different Trains and 1998 for Music for 18 Musicians); honorary doctorates and awards from Juilliard, Budapest's Franz Liszt Academy and other schools; the 2007 Polar Music Prize; the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Music (for Double Sextet); and, in 2012, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Music. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi