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Classical - Released September 10, 2010 | Nonesuch

Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica
Steve Reich's 2007 Double Sextet, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize, is given its first performance by eighth blackbird, the group for whom it was written. For most of his career, Reich has constructed his music with canons using matched pairs of instruments, and he writes that when he was presented with the request from eighth blackbird, he felt he could only write the piece for two identical ensembles, with the live players performing to an accompaniment they had previously recorded, creating the effect of two antiphonal sextets. It's that version that's played here, although both Reich and the ensemble agree that an ideal live performance would feature 12 players. That is somewhat less of an issue in a recording of the piece than in a concert setting, but it is in fact easy to imagine that the give and take of two live sextets could produce subtly different results. Except for conventionality of the instrumentation -- Pierrot ensemble plus percussion -- the Double Sextet doesn't particularly break new ground for Reich, but it's the territory of Eight Lines and Music for Eighteen Musicians in which he's endlessly inventive, and it's loads of fun to hear him so happily and imaginatively at play. Like many of his instrumental works, it's in three movements -- fast, slow, fast -- as is his 2008 2x5 for a double quintet of rock instruments, also recorded for the first time with players from Bang On A Can playing against a recording of themselves. Both works are bright and frisky, saturated with contrapuntal zigzagging, but the Double Sextet is the subtler and more substantial. They receive absolutely top-notch virtuoso performances by their respective ensembles and should certainly delight the composer's fans and listeners who enjoy the cross-pollination of rock and classical that is Reich's specialty. Nonesuch's sound is immaculate and beautifully engineered © Stephen Eddins /TiVo
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Classical - Released June 3, 1997 | Nonesuch

Of the composers generally referred to as "minimalist" (a label almost universally rejected by those to whom it is applied), three have had a substantial and direct impact on modern music both popular and classical since the 1960s: Philip Glass, Steve Reich and, to a somewhat lesser degree, John Adams. Glass has had the greater commercial success and Adams has worked in larger forms with more prestigious orchestras, but Reich has made the most consistently interesting music in both harmonic and rhythmic terms, successfully setting repetitious, slow-changing patterns into interesting and musically compelling structures. As he has repeatedly and adamantly stated, his is not "trance" music; he expects the listener to pay close attention, and his music amply rewards those who do. This monumental ten-CD retrospective collects the original recordings of Reich's published music, except for the new recordings of "New York Counterpoint," "Eight Lines," "Four Organs," and "Music for 18 Musicians." It documents his progression from early tape pieces (deceptively simple, foreshadowing later work with phase shifting and canonic structures), to more recent choral/orchestral works that demonstrate conclusively that Reich's music is far from "minimal." His most famous works are included, notably "Music for 18 Musicians," "The Desert Music," and "Different Trains," widely regarded as his masterpiece. There are, however, some curious exclusions: His groundbreaking "Violin Phase" is missing, not to mention the charming "Music for Pieces of Wood" ("Clapping Music," from the same period, is included), and his gorgeous composition for flutist Ransom Wilson, "Vermont Counterpoint." Nevertheless, this box set is an essential purchase for anyone with a serious interest in modern art music. The packaging is beautiful, and the accompanying booklet includes full track and personnel listings, a chronology of Reich's career, appreciative notes from fellow musicians, and an excellent new interview by Jonathan Cott. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 30, 2014 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released September 13, 2005 | Nonesuch

Nonesuch's 1998 issue of Music for 18 Musicians was originally released as part of the ten-disc box set Works. It's a new digital recording (from 1996) of Reich's most famous piece, and it's the only single-disc release of the piece. It's a fine, nearly definitive, recording of one of the most influential contemporary classical compositions of the late 20th century. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 2, 2018 | Nonesuch

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"QUARTET has the Colin Currie Group performing a composition designed for two vibraphones and two pianos that Reich himself describes as one of his most complex." © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 13, 2005 | Nonesuch

This recording brings together three disparate styles on one record showcasing Reich's compositional work. Opening with "Proverb," a piece for voices and a mixed ensemble, the disc begins on a somber note. The complete text of the piece is the following line from Ludwig Wittgenstein: "How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life!" This line is sung very, very slowly, note by note with style and chord structure hearkening back to medieval harmonization. Electric organs double the singers. The centerpiece of the record is "Nagoya Marimbas," with a sound reminiscent of Reich's marimba work from the '60s and '70s, and for fans of this era of Reich's work it is a pleasant surprise to hear another piece in this style again. Marimba parts themselves are significantly more complex here, showing Reich's continuing development even when returning to old haunts. The final piece, "City Life," is a kickback to an earlier composition style, utilizing sounds in the natural environment (or in this case the urban environment) to generate musical material. Rather than using manipulated magnetic tape, however, Reich uses what he calls the "extended idea of prepared piano" -- the electronic keyboard sampler. Unlike experiments using tape, this piece was recorded live and can be easily reproduced live on-stage. Sampled sounds come in the form of speeches at political rallies, car horns, pile drivers, and sounds from fire-department radios during the first World Trade Center bombing. Using a car horn to replace the sound of a clarinet is, it must be said, pretty darn cool. This record shows Reich playing with different styles -- it is a transitional point in his career -- which leaves the cohesiveness of the recording off-balanced. But seeing the forest for three different kinds of trees, the new works are exciting and musically satisfying. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 13, 2005 | Nonesuch

This hour-long work, commissioned by West German Radio and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, marks a transitional period for Reich. Based in the rhythmic pulse of Music for 18 Musicians, he adds a text by William Carlos Williams (sung by a full chorus), uses the more traditional sounds of a full orchestra (strings and brass are suddenly prominent), and snatches of melody dot the musical canvas here and there. The use of vocals here looks forward to such projects as Different Trains and The Cave. If Reich is trying to encapsulate the grandeur of the American west without falling back on typical "Western" tropes, he does so successfully. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 18, 2006 | Nonesuch

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Classical - Released April 25, 2000 | Nonesuch - Warner Records

This is a record that serves two purposes: first to offer a retrospective of Steve Reich's work over the course of three decades and second to showcase the strength and virtuosity of New York's contemporary ensemble Bang on a Can. Both are extraordinary. The disc opens with Reich's "New York Counterpoint" (1985), scored for clarinet and recording tape. The score indicates that the performer is to lay down 11 tracks and perform live over them in performance. The modern recording process generally running along these lines anyway, a recording of said work is not so novel. The music, however, is exquisitely performed and has a sweetness of sound uncommon to Reich's work -- at the same time manic and busy -- very jazz-inflected and swinging. Reich's "Eight Lines" (1983) follows, being a revision of 1979's "Octet." One of the most complex and fascinating works in his catalog, "Eight Lines" -- scored for two pianos, two string quartets, flute, piccolo, and clarinets -- weaves a dense fabric of music where melodies emerge, interlock, and sing. Its 5/4 time signature resists mental subdivision, making the composition appear seamless from beginning to end. Based on Jewish sounds of cantillation, this piece builds melodies one note at a time, making the listener hear a melody emerge that they have actually been listening to for some time; a remarkable work. The disc closes with "Four Organs" (1970), a 16-minute piece comprised of one chord. Interesting on its own merits for its playfulness with the way listeners hear, this piece does not stand up to repeated listenings. In fact, repeated listenings may give the listener a headache. The piece begins with four organists playing a single chord, repeated twice per phrase with simple pulsing maracas to keep the tempo. As this pattern repeats, single notes extend beyond the chords either preceding it or following it until the latter half of the piece, when the seemingly amorphous gel of sound is continuous and static. The second performance of this piece in 1973 resulted in a near riot, with audience members shouting at one another and one lady banging on the stage with a shoe in an attempt to stop the music. Those who listen to Reich's music will undoubtedly have a more patient ear but will likely program this track out of the mix. A highly recommended recording. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 13, 2005 | Nonesuch

These historical recordings were difficult to find (usually on out of print compilations) for a long time, so it's gratifying to have them readily available in one place. The two important tape pieces here from the mid-'60s, "Come Out" and "It's Gonna Rain," have their sound sources originating in police brutality and apocalyptic evangelism. Reich takes his sources and turns them into two short tape loops repeated rapidly as they gradually go out of synch with each other -- what's revealed are the intricacies of the human voice. "Come Out" takes the voice fragment and turns it into a hall-of-mirror set of voices over shuffling beat and wah-wah that are actually a by-product of subtleties of the voice and almost unrecognizable as the original vocal sample. It becomes a scary psychedelic funk piece that Funkadelic or Can would have been proud of. "It's Gonna Rain" is similarly looped and phased as the preacher's admonition is transformed, moving in and out of synch as the piece progresses with the second part of the piece especially full of fierce, terrifying swirls of noise. After taking musique concrete to another level, Reich decided to try to make similar strides with instrumental music. The two other pieces here, "Piano Phase" and "Clapping Music," represent this new direction in his work. Re-recorded here in 1986 and 1987, their intricate, layered patterns should be familiar to fans of another one of Reich's masterpieces, "Music for 18 Musicians." Early Works is a must-have introduction for anyone interested in the roots of minimalist music. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 20, 2005 | Nonesuch

Although Reich's music during the '80s, as he gained in popularity, was increasingly written for larger, lusher ensembles (with, oftentimes, the concomitant loss of "edge"), he occasionally and happily reverted to more contained compositions such as those included here. "Sextet" is pared down to four percussionists and two keyboardists (the latter including synthesizers) and evokes early pieces of Reich's Drumming while incorporating his ongoing use of longer melodic lines. In five sections, it tends toward a buoyant and jazzy bubbliness, percolating with all manner of busy interaction and wonderfully intermeshed rhythms. One of the new techniques employed is having the vibraphonists bow their instruments, generating long, ghostly tones reminiscent of musical saws but cleaner and more precise. Since this cannot be done quickly, Reich writes patterns that interweave between performers, achieving a kind of hocketing effect where, by playing only every third or fourth note in a rhythmic line, the ensemble can produce what the listener perceives as a fast tempo even as each individual is playing slowly. The closing section is pure effervescent bliss. "Six Marimbas," scored for, unsurprisingly, six marimbas, sounds even closer to the pieces that originally brought Reich to renown and is, in fact, a rescoring of his "Six Pianos" from 1973. The pure, luscious tones of the marimbas make it even more successful than the original and the work is played with obvious delight and rigor by the percussion ensemble Nexus, who includes several members of Reich's working band of the early '70s. In sum, Sextet/Six Marimbas is one of the finest releases of mid-career Reich, entirely without the pretensions that marred some of his other work from the period, and is highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released December 6, 2005 | Nonesuch

Although not as well known as Drumming or Music for 18 Musicians, 1981's Tehillim has earned its place next to those works in Steve Reich's canon. It's arguably his most mature and fully realized work, taking the various strands which had intrigued him before (including African percussion, the human voice, and the power of subtly changing patterns) and developing them in new and interesting ways. The title is Hebrew for "Psalms," and the chants the female vocals develop throughout are indeed liturgical texts. As such, they have a rhythm of their own which plays off of the steady pulse of the finger cymbals in interesting ways, placing accents in unexpected places. Meanwhile, Reich -- for the first time in his mature career as a composer -- experiments with modulation between keys and other elements of tonality that he had previously ignored. Indeed, when the final movement, after three movements' worth of Reich's characteristic tonal ambiguity, finally "affirms the key of D major as the basic tonal center," as Reich's lucid liner notes helpfully explain, the effect, combined with the increasing power and passion of the female voices, is astonishing. © Stewart Mason /TiVo
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Classical - Released September 1, 1980 | ECM New Series

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Classical - Released August 30, 2020 | Armasi

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Classical - Released September 12, 2011 | Nonesuch

This 2011 album features three attractive works by Steve Reich written between 2002 and 2010. These aren't pieces that break new ground for the composer, but they are bound to appeal to anyone who appreciates his earlier work. They are most reminiscent of his music from the late '70s and 1980s, one of his most productive and musically distinguished periods. WTC 9/11 recalls the sound and procedures of his landmark composition Different Trains (1988) for string quartet and tape, and is played by the Kronos Quartet, the group that premiered the earlier piece. The voices that Reich samples in this work include those of people either caught up in the experience of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack or reflecting later on its meaning, and he derives the melodies of the instrumental lines from the contours of their spoken words. The piece doesn't have the musical depth or layered emotional complexity of Different Trains, but its subject matter guarantees the power of its visceral impact. Mallet Quartet (2009) for two vibraphones and two marimbas, and Dance Patterns (2010) for two vibraphones, two xylophones, and two pianos revisit the bright, dancing sound world of pieces like Tehillim and Eight Lines. They employ similar harmonies and compositional devices and showcase Reich's characteristic infectious rhythmic momentum. They may not show the composer pushing at new boundaries the way the earlier works did, but even if they have a familiar sound, it's a terrific sound, one that's bound to engage anyone who has been beguiled by the energy and colors of Reich's music. The Kronos Quartet, So Percussion, and the six players on Dance Patterns deliver top-notch performances, and Nonesuch's sound is immaculate. The album also includes a bonus DVD of So Percussion performing Mallet Quartet. © Stephen Eddins /TiVo
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Classical - Released September 13, 2005 | Nonesuch

The Cave is a December 1994 piece featuring the Steve Reich Ensemble (conducted by Paul Hillier) in collaboration with video/text writer Beryl Korot. The story concerns the only place in the world where both Jews and Muslims are allowed to worship, a mosque in Hebron supposed to be the Cave of the Patriarchs where Abraham and many of his descendants were buried. Reich's ensemble includes four vocalists, four percussionists, three vocalists and a five-piece string section. The work begins with regimented percussion and follows through short spoken-word parts and longer sung passages. In several of the spoken-word parts, the harmonics are echoed in the string section (one of Reich's most recognizable and appealing devices), and although the content may be uninteresting to those not familiar with the ongoing Israeli-Arab differences, The Cave is a fascinating piece. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 13, 2005 | Nonesuch

Steve Reich has always been at the forefront of technology while preserving his love for acoustic instruments. Three Tales is a collaboration with the cinematic artistry of Beryl Korot, and marries the worlds of historical events and Reich's minimalist and multi-layered combination of musics with the psychodrama of digital visual possibilities. Reich, in the liner notes, dismisses the idea that he is embracing new media while simultaneously scoffing at the "advances" of humankind as sensationalized by the news in today's manic society. Instead he is -- more than at any other time in his career -- telling broad-reaching stories with the full spectrum of his German/Jewish/African-influenced music, words, and image-driven scenarios that are burned in our brains, but never before in this particular light. The triad of accounts, which definitely act as a connected suite, relate to the horrific disaster of the torched Hindenburg blimp; the religious and vengeful connections between the Biblical tale of Adam and Eve, Hiroshima and the atomic bombs, and the invention of the two-piece women's swimsuit; and the first vestiges of artificial life created in contemporary times as represented by the cloning of the famous sheep Dolly. The accompanying DVD is useful in that it does enhance the audio backdrop, though as always with Reich's unique approach, the music can easily stand alone. "Hindenburg" (with "It Could Not Have Been a Technical Matter" on the DVD) starts with a dramatic, dancing motif on pianos, string quartet, and marimba, but phases into the actual sounds of sizzling and then eruptive thermite and hydrogen reacting. It's a macabre effect as vocal commentary and layered vocals become a news actuality. The ten-part "Bikini" is an ever evolving piece, ranging from the statement "I watched it fly" to strings sighing; a probing, insistent chorale in mixed meters; a gigantic mushroom chorale; settled and apologetic strings; an implied march; the rhythmic noise of countdown; more strident strings; and a post-horror aftermath of shock, dismay, and indignation. Whether resolute or not, this 22-and-a-half-minute piece really sets one's thought process into tilt-a-whirl mode. "Dolly" has an insular feeling, with multiple commentaries from scientists on the vagaries, possible consequences, and unlimited possibilities cell division and multiplication might lead to in the future. There's a clear choral homage to birth, processed percussive statements of the "human body machine" turned faceless, phased and echoed audio images of Charles Darwin's theorems, the thought that "every creature has a song," and the lengthy concluding coda where technology is a constant of evolution, but to its detriment, turned into intelligent machinery as phased and layered notions of controlling robotics, cyborg beings, and ultimate immortality end with the idea that this is "bringing up a baby the hard way." Throughout this program, Reich's central musical themes are always present, either exploding, providing a triptych through not only his witty modern music but the linear path of life, or expressing self-doubt through a vision of both caution and bravery. The most reliable members of Reich's longstanding large ensembles are here, including percussionists Bob Becker, Russ Hartenberger, Garry Kvistad, and James L. Preiss, mainly on marimba and vibes. The Synergy vocal ensemble add all the theatrics possible, while veteran pianists Edmund Niemann and Nurit Tilles stand fast in their role to drive this music into the 21st century. Three Tales is yet another stunning accomplishment in Steve Reich's illustrious career, but these descriptions can never really do it justice. Please, when you purchase this item, take your time in watching, listening, and reflecting on how the human condition (in both its depth and shallowness) and its feats, tragedies, triumphs, and consequences still steadfastly allow us to retain hope and optimism for a better world. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
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Classical - Released September 26, 2014 | Nonesuch

Booklet
"The five-movement piece feels more like homage, using some of the same chord structures and time signatures of the Radiohead to explore some new sonic terrain." © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 30, 1967 | Columbia - Legacy

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One of the most beautifully pressed vinyls of electronic music with 3 important works: Steve Reich "Come Out" (see Reich's Early Works), Richard Maxfield "Night Music," and Pauline Oliveros "I of IV." Maxfield's "Night Music" is an exquisite pre-synthesizer electronic music made -- like his pieces "Sine Music" (1959) and "Trinity Piece" (1960) -- with only the supersonic bias signal of a tape recorder and a supersonic sawtooth waveform from an oscilloscope producing audio range difference tone "ghosts". Identical in feeling to a response to the sound of birds and insects on a summer night in a city park. "I of IV" is a good example of Oliveros' earlier electronic music using a configuration of tape recorders patched into each other with magnetic tape spliced in loops so that a form of "automatic generation" system was created by feedback. Similar to Richard Maxfield, Oliveros used bias frequencies of tape recorders and difference, or lower "ghost tones" produced by the interference of very high frequencies. © "Blue" Gene Tyranny /TiVo
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Classical - Released October 2, 2001 | Nonesuch - Warner Records

Steve Reich continues his exploration of counterpoint and phasing with Triple Quartet, a commission piece for the Kronos Quartet dating to 1999. For this piece (a suite in three movements), Kronos recorded two quartet scores, then played along with the tape, resulting in the Triple Quartet. Originally inspired by Bela Bartok's Fourth Quartet, the movements alternate fast, slow, and fast, with thick contrapuntal melodies rising and falling throughout. "Electric Guitar Phase" began life as "Violin Phase" in 1967. For this version, Dominic Frasca plays four electric guitar parts designed to set up phasing patterns. The initial melody (which almost sounds like the intro to a Van Halen tune) is doubled on a second guitar, then gradually sped up so that the second guitar winds up one eighth note ahead of the original melody. As other guitar parts are added in, the melody constantly changes subtly, the end result being a fascinating mixture of stasis and evolution. "Music for Large Ensemble," originally dating to 1977, is for a group approaching 30 players and is reminiscent of "Music for 18 Musicans" (also from the same time period), while "Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint" is originally from 1981 and is performed by only one player performing multiple parts. For this piece, the original arrangement for flutes and piccolos is scored for MIDI marimba and xylophone. The natural duration of the notes was shortened in order to maintain the clarity of the composition, but the piece still shares a sonic kinship with "Six Marimbas." Triple Quartet is another beautiful offering from Steve Reich. It would also serve as a fine introduction to his work, as it surveys each of his four active decades as a composer and touches on the various styles and processes he's been interested in since moving away from pure musique concrète. Highly recommended. © TiVo