experiencing “new” music: steve reich

This is another series I’m starting with a view to opening us all up to “new” music. The word new is in quotes because one could only consider this music as having been created recently if we were employing the timescale of the lives of mountains or continents. New in this context has to be understood as, “I wasn’t familiar with that before,” or just, “new to me.”

The point isn’t simply to evangelize on behalf of certain musical styles so that more people are aware of their existence; rather, the hope is that more exposure to different styles of music will help us become ever more creative.

I’ve talked about minimalist music before, because I think that it has a lot of elements that make it ideal for meditative uses. We could be forgiven for thinking that minimalist might mean that the music is short. In fact quite the opposite is usually the case. Minimal in this sense has to do with the amount of musical elements that are used in a piece of music. For me there’s no better way to experience what minimal music is like than by listening to Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians , which premiered in 1976.

original album cover

original album cover

This style of music, and this piece in particular, really allow us to focus on a certain part and to follow how it evolves, which usually takes place a little bit at a time. In fact it’s not hard to imagine these parts as growing. It’s also a technique that isn’t at all difficult to employ in spontaneously improvised music. You can start with a single note and repeat it. At some point it can become two notes, then three and so on.

But why read what I have to say about this piece: Here’s a live performance as found on YouTube, which clocks in at just under an hour:

If you like this style of music and want to pursue it further Wikipedia’s article on Minimal Music is not a bad beginning. And we will certainly have occasion here to explore other minimalist composers.

Lastly it’s worth stating explicitly that these posts aren’t about trying to get you to fall in love with any particular style or certain piece of music (it would be wonderful if you did, but it’s not the actual goal). You might detest some of the music you hear! However it’s quite possible that even such music might spark an idea in you which leads you to greater creativity. Who could argue that that’s not a good thing?

This entry was posted in Ideas, new music. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *