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Composer Steve Reich Discusses His Work

Steve Reich, a pioneer in tape music and American minimalism, has established himself as one of the "first generation" composers of our time. Jeffrey Brown interviews Reich about his work.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Steve Reich calls it "Clapping Music," a piece he composed in 1972 and performed earlier this year at a concert with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Two musicians clap out a pattern of beats, first together, then slipping out of sync, before weaving back toward one another. It's a kind of trick of the ear, making something simple and unexpected sound complex and musical.

    With such spare early experiments with rhythmic patterns to highly orchestrated works — this is his newest, called "Daniel Variations," written in honor of slain reporter Daniel Pearl — Steve Reich has been one of music's most innovative forces.

    He's credited with bringing new energy and ideas to the concert hall. And this year, as he turns 70, Reich has been thrown a grand worldwide birthday party. The culmination came in a series of concerts in New York, including several at Carnegie Hall.

    For Reich, the path was long and anything but assured, but he's clear where it started.

    Did you ever imagine many years ago to be here as the honoree?

  • STEVE REICH, Composer:

    At the age of 14, for the first time, I heard the "Rite of Spring," "Fifth Brandenburg Concerto," and Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, the drummer, Kenny Clark…

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Stravinsky, Bach and…

  • STEVE REICH:

    And bebop.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Bebop.

    That did it?

  • STEVE REICH:

    That did it. It was as if someone said, "Hey, there's a room in the house you haven't seen." And I walked in that room, and basically I never left.

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