Steve Reich: Mind Blender

American classical composer, Steve Reich, has at least one thing in common with great science fiction writers: they put your mind through a blender. This week, Reich celebrates his 75th birthday while he continues challenging audiences with a new musical language.

Never heard of Reich? Watch this short documentary on his life and you may have to restrain yourself from checking out everything the AADL has by him. As the documentary says, Reich’s work is often based on repeated melodic patterns set to a regular pulse. His instrumentation is often unusual, such as using hand clapping and tongue clicking for an entire piece, or swinging microphones on pendulums over speakers to produce rhythmic feedback.

Brian Eno says his music wouldn’t exist without Reich’s influence. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas says, “I know when I’ve truly learned [Reich’s] pieces because they stop hurting.” Reich has named Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Charlie Parker’s music as strong influences on his work. Put these pieces together and you get a complex rhythmic experience akin to setting your brain blender on ‘Frappe.’