Steve Reich’s ‘Music for 18 musicians’ uses the repetition of notes and sounds in a minimalistic approach to generate a 1-hour musical masterpiece. While some instruments are given singular notes, singers or the xylophone have multiple keys which they play/sing over and over in quick succession. His chosen style has a straightforward approach, using combinations of simple motifs and harmonies (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Reich has also done collaborative work with his wife, Beryl Korot, who is a video artist on the Cave (1993), and Three Tales (2002).
His works are truly amazing and are capable of stirring up multiple emotions from those his audiences. As soon as ‘Music for 18 Musicians’ began I was instantly thrown into a different place. I had an immediate emotional response, feeling a sense of urgency. I wanted to get up and run, jump and move about the room. The fact that I was simply sitting and listening made this determination to move around all the more persistent. It was easy to envision this music being used at the beginning of a movie to indicate some form of travel, on a train or in a car, as this music to me indicates “transition”. Another of his works, ‘Clapping music’, it is quite literally just using people clapping. While each “note” is exactly the same, the timing of each clap generates a musical piece that is actually quite beautiful and dramatic. Again, it generates this immediate emotional response from the audience. For me, again, it was the desire to move.
This simplistic approach is something that I very much enjoy when it comes to music. I love the fact that, while the complexity of the music isn’t there, the final piece demonstrates that you do not need this in order to generate a piece of work that can have a major impact on those that listen to it. I intend to utilise this approach in my own work, using the repetition of singular notes or sounds to create a sound piece that will still stir up some sort of emotional response from those that listen to it.
The editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica, edited Viewed May 23 2017<https://www.britannica.com/biography/Steve-Reich>
Steve Reichs 1978 instrumental piece, “Music for 18 Musicians”