Reich @ 70 - Musical Sources
“You’re fishing in your unconscious, which is filled with music history.” —Steve Reich

Reich in His Own Words

About exposure to jazz, early music, and 20th-century classical music. (1:29)
About experiences with serialism. (1:31)
About the influence of Bartók and Stravinsky. (3:05)
About the influence of West African rhythms. (1:18)


When asked to pinpoint the moment music became a driving force in his life, Steve Reich often references a brief period in 1950 when he first heard the music of Bach, Stravinsky, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Kenny Clarke. The impact was so stunning that he recalls, “It was as if you had lived in a house and someone said, ‘Okay, now you’re 14 years old. There’s a room you haven’t seen yet.’ And they opened the door, I walked in the room, and, to tell you the truth, I never left.”

As Reich’s compositional voice came into tighter focus, his influences deepened in several key areas. The rhythmic structures integral to the African and Balinese music he studied in the early 1970s opened up his thinking with regard to polyphony and repeating patterns. He also drew heavily on the application of simple melodies and canonic forms—a move quite contrary to Western art music’s trajectory at the time, but which had served as a musical bedrock throughout the centuries.


Part I: Fast