Steve Reich

Composer Steve Reich...echt-cool(Photo: Steve Reich)
Composer Steve Reich...echt-cool(Photo: Steve Reich)

I will interview Steve Reich from the stage of Weigel Hall auditorium this Thursday, February 23 at 12.30 as part of the OSU-College  of the Arts Winter Convocation. Come one and all.


Over twenty-five years ago I was having lunch with the late Robert Jacobson, editor of Opera News. The ‘minimalist’ school of music and composers was then echt-cool. It was becoming easier to fill a hall for Tehillim than for Puccini.  Bob, God bless him, railed over his cobb salad. I sat and nodded and seemed to agree because I was afraid not to. But I was envious of those full houses at BAM and the Cooper Union and even Avery Fisher Hall. As time went on I was convinced that organizing sounds in a different way-and different sounds-would not make the world less safe for La boheme.

My first live performance of a ‘minimalist’ (as ever with labels, a misnomer) was Steve Reich’s Tehillim. I scored a ticket because a college buddy who was among the singers. This telling of the Hebrew Psalms is scored for singers, vibes, electronic sounds, hand-clapping. You get the idea. I loved it then and I love it now.

John Adams Grand Pianola Music was on the same program. The last two minutes of this work feature a recognizable tune-a real melody. The audience was incensed by this: the booing was as long as the performance.

Phillip Glass is probably the most commercial of the Reich-Adams-Glass triumvirate. His work has long embraced several different media-his modes of delivery can have broader appeal. He and Adams have worked a lot in the theater of recent years. Twenty years after Bob Jacobson died, the august Met got on the bus with wonderful productions of Dr. Atomic and Nixon in China, the latter approaching Puccini status in numbers of performances.

Steve Reich, to me, remains the true experimenter. He seems afraid of nothing. He continues regardless of public approbation or disapproval. I was interested in meeting him, that far-from-being-a-stuffy type he wore his (now older) downtown persona with charm.

Come hear what Steve Reich has to say about music, thirty-five years after he was dismissed by the mainstream. Now, God bless us and spare us, he IS mainstream.