Steve Reich has been called
“America’s greatest living composer” (The
Village Voice), “the most original musical thinker of our time” (The New Yorker), and “among the great
composers of the century” (The New York
Reich’s musical legacy has been influential on composers and mainstream
musicians all over the world. His music is known for steady pulse, repetition,
and a fascination with canons; it combines rigorous structures with propulsive
rhythms and seductive instrumental color, and also embraces harmonies of
non-Western and American vernacular music (especially jazz). His studies have
included Balinese gamelan, African drumming (at the University of Ghana), and
traditional forms of chanting of the Hebrew scriptures, in addition to his
studies at Cornell University, The Juilliard School, and Mills College with
Different Trains and Music for 18 Musicians have each earned
Grammy Awards, and Double Sextet won
the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Reich’s documentary video opera works—The
Cave and Three Tales, done in
collaboration with video artist Beryl Korot—have pushed the boundaries of the
operatic medium and have been presented on four continents.
Reich’s music has been performed by major orchestras and ensembles around the
world, including the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics; London, Sydney,
San Francisco, Boston, and BBC symphony orchestras; London Sinfonietta; Kronos
Quartet; Ensemble Modern; Ensemble Intercontemporain; Bang on a Can All-Stars; Alarm
Will Sound; and Eighth Blackbird. Several noted choreographers have created
dances to his music, such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jiří Kylián, Jerome
Robbins, Wayne McGregor, Justin Peck, and Christopher Wheeldon.
Reich was awarded the Gold Medal in Music by the American Academy of Arts and
Letters in 2012. He was named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in
France, as well as a member in the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. His honors
include the Praemium Imperiale in Tokyo, the Polar Music Prize in Stockholm,
the BBVA Foundation Award in Madrid, the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale,
the 2016 Nemmers Prize in Music Composition from Northwestern University, as
well as the William Schuman Award from Columbia University, the Montgomery Fellowship
from Dartmouth College, and the Regent’s Lectureship at the University of
California at Berkeley. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Royal
College of Music in London, The Juilliard School, the Liszt Academy in
Budapest, and the New England Conservatory, among others.
The 2016–2017 season marks Reich’s 80th birthday, with over 400 performances in
more than 20 countries across the globe celebrating his music and legacy. Two
new works receive world premieres in fall 2016: Pulse, which receives its premiere with the International
Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) conducted by David Robertson at Carnegie Hall; and Runner, which is performed at London’s
Royal Ballet accompanied by new choreography by Wayne McGregor. Several
presenters have announced special concert series and residencies to honor his
anniversary, including Lincoln Center, San Francisco Symphony, the Barbican in
London, Tokyo Opera City, and Carnegie Hall, which has named Reich the Richard
and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair for the 2016–2017 season.
Born in New York, and raised there and in California, Reich graduated with
honors in philosophy from Cornell University in 1957. For the next two years,
he studied composition with Hall Overton, and from 1958 to 1961, he studied at
the Juilliard School of Music with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti.
Reich received his master’s degree in music from Mills College in 1963, where
he worked with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud.
“There’s just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have
altered the direction of musical history and Steve Reich is one of them” (The Guardian).