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Contemporary Music Highlights For January 2010: Steve Reich

WFIU's featured contemporary composer for the month of January is Steve Reich.

Steve Reich was an early pioneer in tape music and American minimalism. After studying philosophy at Cornell University, he turned to composition, first with Vincent Persichetti at Julliard, then with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud at Mills College.

Reich's music is characterized by a strong, steady pulse and strictly diatonic and tonal harmonies. He is typically grouped together with other "first generation" minimalist composers such as Philip Glass and La Monte Young, and more recently with younger composers such as John Adams. The music is deeply American in its roots, with an unrelenting pulse and short, repeating melodic figures often compared to rock-and-roll and be-bop. Like other minimalist composers, however, Reich's music is also largely influenced by extra-European forms and techniques, generally viewed as a response to the largely academic, elitist climate of new music in the 1950s and '60s.

In the 1980s, Reich's work took on a darker character with the introduction of historical themes as well as themes from his Jewish heritage, notably Different Trains, which won a Grammy.

Reich's style of composition influenced many other composers and musical groups. The Guardian described him as one of "a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history." In 2006, performing organizations around the world marked Reich's seventieth birthday year with festivals and special concerts. Reich was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Double Sextet.

WFIU will feature the works of Steve Reich on Wednesday evenings during the 11 p.m. contemporary music hour and throughout our classical music programming in January.

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