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Steve Reich

Lawrence Bush
October 2, 2017
eif-reich-2The pioneering minimalist composer Steve Reich was born in New York on this date in 1936. His best-known works include the 90-minute Drumming (1971) and Music for Eighteen Musicians (1974), which involves four pianos, a cello, a violin, two clarinets, three marimbas, two xylophones, a metallophone (chime), and four women’s voices, all of which hypnotically pulse and phase their way through a cycle of eleven chords. In the 1980s, Reich introduced Jewish themes into his music with Tehillim (psalms) and Different Trains, which contrasts his childhood train trips between New York and California (his parents were divorced) with the death trains of the Holocaust. Reich was awarded a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for his Double Sextet. He is “widely considered,” says the New York Times, “one of the most important living composers, who . . . changed the course of music in the 20th century. And he is still very much a force in the 21st.” “I discovered that the most interesting music of all was made by simply lining the loops in unison, and letting them slowly shift out of phase with each other.” —Steve Reich Watch a video of the Smith Quartet performing Different Trains (“Europe-During the War”):

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.