Steve Reich Conversations

Steve Reich
Hanover Square Press, 2022
Illustrated. 347 pp.

In a series of interviews with musicians and other performing artists, composer Steve Reich discusses contemporary music performance over the last 50 years in the U.S. and Western Europe.

In the process we learn about Reich’s formative years, his attraction to Early Music (especially Perotin), his life-changing introduction to Stravinsky’s music, his love of Balinese gamelan, his lack of engagement with music of the Classic and Romantic periods, and his use of tape as a compositional device.

The 19 interview subjects offer varying perspectives on performing Reich’s pieces, including Drumming, Music for 18 Musicians, Different Trains, Tehillim, Electric Counterpoint, WTC 9/11, and Four Organs.

In turn, Reich encourages his colleagues to discuss their own artistic development and creative processes, which is a real treat if you follow the careers of Brian Eno, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Jonny Greenwood, the Kronos Quartet, or Stephen Sondheim.  Making brief cameo appearances amidst these conversations are David Bowie, John Cage, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Pat Metheny.

This collection of interviews will entertain any reader with some knowledge of 20th-Century music in general and Reich in particular. At times the discussions of music theory and fine points of performance get really deep into the weeds, and might be skimmed over. And, truth be told, hyperbole is used quite liberally, making one wonder whether perhaps Reich can fly under his own power.

But Reich is not stuck on himself. He eagerly probes these composers and instrumentalists about their work and the reader senses a real shared admiration among these artists. The book is about all 19 of these creative spirits and their contributions to culture over the past five decades.


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