Steve Reich (b.1936)

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0120101025

Donald Macleod discusses Steve Reich's early upbringing and influences with the composer.

Donald Macleod chats exclusively to one of the world's most acclaimed living composers - and presents music spanning his extraordinary musical career.

"There's just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history.

Steve Reich is one of them".

So wrote the music critic Andrew Clements of this week's Composer Of The Week - a man whose remarkable music the New York Times also described as "fiercely original, immediately recognisable.and wholly accessible".

Steve Reich's music crosses boundaries - admired by classical concertgoers, rock bands and house music DJs alike.

His work rips apart the conventions of genre - making use of percussion, amplification and the latest developments in recording and even video technology - to create something completely new that sits equally happily in the concert hall, art gallery or rock concert (at this year's Manchester International Festival, he opened for Kraftwerk).

Yet unlike the music of many of his contemporaries, Reich's music is immediately accessible to the general public - an exuberant, teeming mass, of short, recurring melodies and rhythms that chime with the pulse of contemporary life.

Yet one of the founding fathers of 'minimalism' in music is sometimes a controversial figure - his hypnotic patterns and slowly shifting textures disparaged by some music lovers as overly repetitive...or even simplistic.

Listeners to this week's Composer Of The Week will discover that the truth is anything but...as Donald Macleod discusses a lifetime in music with the composer, in an extended interview conducted at his home in upstate New York in September 2010.

Just as composers like Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler captured their era in their compositions, so Reich's music distils the pulsating rhythm and routine of 21st century urban life.

Wry, witty and disarmingly candid about the ideas and influences behind his work, Steve Reich is an engaging and insightful guide to his compositions.

The series presents a selection of music spanning his entire career, from the 1965 tape piece "It's Gonna Rain" to the premiere on British radio of his Pulitzer Prize-winning "Double Sextet" of 2008.

We also hear some of Reich's most acclaimed works: "Music For 18 Musicians", "Different Trains" for string quartet, the 'video opera' "The Cave", and on Wednesday, a rare complete performance of his extraordinary, African-inspired work "Drumming".

The series also features a number of less-heard works, including his Jewish-infused vocal piece "Tehillim" and a rare - and beautiful - foray into orchestral writing, 1987's "The Four Sections".

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Donald Macleod begins the week by discussing Reich's early upbringing and influences with the composer, featuring excerpts from two vastly different works: his seminal - and radical - tape piece "It's Gonna Rain", and the lush, expressively lyrical "Music For 18 Musicians".

The programme also features a work for no instruments at all - the composer's "Clapping Music" - and the gamelan-infused "Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ".

0220101026

Donald Macleod explores the perils and pitfalls of writing for orchestra with Steve Reich.

By the late 1970s and 80s, Steve Reich - a one-time radical - was increasingly acclaimed across the musical world - his pieces performed in concert halls, his presence in demand across the world.

Yet as commissions began to flood in, the composer found himself writing for ever larger, and ever more unwieldy, orchestral ensembles - a situation that threw up all sorts of challenges.and frustrations.

After all, what's an American composer living in the last quarter of the 20th century got in common with the medium of Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler?

Donald Macleod discusses the perils and pitfalls of writing for the orchestra with the composer, including a rare performance of his most extended orchestral piece, the sensuous "The Four Sections".

The programme also features excerpts from Reich's first major vocal piece, "Tehillim", for which he drew on his own Jewish heritage.

0320101027

Donald Macleod introduces Steve Reich's visionary, African-inspired work Drumming.

Donald Macleod introduces the centrepiece of this week celebrating the life and career of Steve Reich, one of the world's most acclaimed living composers: his extraordinary, visionary work of 1971, "Drumming".

Inspired by the intricate drum patterns of the Ewe tribe of Ghana, and nearly an hour in duration, "Drumming" is one of the masterworks of late 20th century classical music: a sensuous ritual of hypnotic colours and timbres.

0420101028

Donald Macleod explores Steve Reich's 'video opera' The Cave and Different Trains.

Steve Reich explores two of his most original large-scale works of the late 1980s and 90s with presenter Donald Macleod.

"The Cave" is a unique 'video opera', conceived by Reich in partnership with his wife, the artist Beryl Korot, exploring questions of Jewish, Muslim and American identity from ancient times to the present, and inspired by the Cave of Machpilai in Hebron, the burial place of Abraham.

Meanwhile, the Grammy Award-winning work "Different Trains", for string quartet and tape, has its inspiration closer to home, in the long journeys from New York to San Francisco Reich made between his divorced parents as a young child in the late 1930s and early 40s - a time when half a world away, Jewish men and women like himself were being transported by train to the death camps of Eastern Europe.

The episode ends with Reich and Donald Macleod discussing the composer's inspiration to a whole new generation of dance, electronica and rock musicians - with an excerpt from his seminal 1967 work "Piano Phase", remixed by British dance collective, D*Note.

05 LAST20101029

Donald Macleod ends his exclusive week of discussion with the composer Steve Reich with one of his most haunting - and unusual - works for voices, based upon a tiny - and apt - aphorism of Ludwig Wittgenstein: "How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life!".

Plus, the British radio premiere of the composer's "Double Sextet", which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Composition.

As the composer's 75th birthday looms large next year, Reich talks about his plans for the future - and his thoughts on the legacy of so-called 'minimalism'.

Proverb (1995) - Theatre Of Voices: Andrea Fullington, Sonja Rasmussen, Alison Zelles (sopranos); Alan Bennett, Paul Elliott (tenors); Russell Hartenberger, Bob Becker (vibraphones); Nurit Tilles, Edmund Niemann (electric organs) / Paul Hillier.