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He may be known for musical minimalism, but Steve Reich’s impact and reach in modern music is far from minimal.
One of the genre’s key pioneers, Reich has influenced the work of music icons such as David Bowie, Björk, Brian Eno, U2 and Aphex Twin.
His musical education is also remarkably expansive, with a scope stretching across world cultures. Reich has studied drumming in Africa, traditional chanting of Hebrew scriptures in Jerusalem, and also the Balinese gamelan, a traditional Indonesian musical instrument.
Reich has dedicated much of his life to music, and it is a devotion that hasn’t been in vain. He turns 80 in 2016, and in honour of this milestone, here are eight factoids about the unassuming master of minimalism that will help music lovers get to know him a little better:
“Excuse me, Mr Reich?”—If you’re going to call him, his surname is pronounced “rahysh” and doesn’t end with a “k” sound like “bike”.
To earn a living when he first started out as a composer, Reich worked as a taxi driver, a film soundman and a social worker at New York University.
Reich only writes music that he can play, so that he can be part of the performance when his schedule allows it.
Reich does not rehearse or perform from Friday evening to Saturday evening, because he is a devout practitioner of Judaism who observes the Sabbath.
Reich and his ensemble once watched a bad flamenco performance at a nightclub restaurant and after they left, they imitated the performers and clapped at each other. Soon after, Reich’s iconic Clapping Music, written for two performers using only handclaps, was born.
Recently, Reich, together with the London Sinfonietta, created the iPhone music game app Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, so that music lovers can learn how to play his iconic clapping work.
Reich swung microphones over speakers to create audio feedback at specific intervals. The result? The work Pendulum Music.
Trying to spot Reich in a crowd or on stage? More often than not, he’s the one sporting a well-worn baseball cap.
Steve Reich peformed with London Sinfonietta on 17 Mar 2016 at the Esplanade Concert Hall, presented as part of Esplanade's Spectrum series. That evening, Reich himself participated in performances of Clapping Music and Music for 18 Musicians.
Steve Reich's music was put in the spotlight again at Colin Currie Group and Synergy Vocals Perform Steve Reich on 10 Nov 2018 at the Esplanade Concert Hall, also presented as part of Spectrum.