Heavy Vanguard: Steve Reich // Music For 18 Musicians

We’re going to take a tiny detour off our safari of weird music and talk about minimalism.

First off: what the hell is minimalism? We throw that term out a lot here on Heavy Blog, with Scott and Nick in particular being fans of post-minimalists like Tim Hecker and Colin Stetson, but there isn’t always explanation of the root term. The TL;DR of it is repetition—excessive repetition that slowly grows and changes over time. The original minimalists—Steve ReichPhilip GlassTerry Riley, and La Monte Young—went against the tide of classical music at the time (serialism) by composing tonal music in new, thought-provoking ways. Each of these composers approached their material differently, but repetition remains a constant theme.

We’re focusing on Reich today, though: a composer whose experimentation mostly utilized organic phase effects. Music For 18 Musicians is probably his most well-known and well-regarded piece (though 1970-71’s Drumming is pretty famous too), and while its name is a bit of a misnomer (it’s basically impossible to play the piece with just 18 musicians), it’s remained a staple in minimalist music.

Recommended Listening:

  • Steve Reich—Drumming
  • Terry Riley—In C

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Jimmy is a New Hampshire-based writer with a penchant for singing Billy Joel while he thinks nobody is looking. On the more metal/hardcore side of things, he enjoys The Dillinger Escape Plan, Deftones, and anything by Trent Reznor. He and Scott Murphy will one day rule the galaxy as father and son.