Music for 18 Musicians, for 4 female voices & 16 instruments
Performed by Steve Reich & Musicians
At the close of the 1970s, The New York Times declared Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians one of the ten most important works of that decade. But the passage of time has proven that inaccurate. As K. Robert Schwartz writes in his liner notes, it is “one of the handful of late-twentieth-century works that can rightly claim to have altered the course of Western music.”
Reich himself admits that 18 marks a “high point” in his thirty-year career. “It’s undoubtedly one of the best pieces I’ve ever done. Sometimes everything just comes together and suddenly you’ve created this wonderful organism, and in this piece it happened. That accounts for its durability. but it also has a real structural backbone, so it continues to please me twenty years later.”
The product of virtually continuous work from May 1974 to March 1976, 18 was finished when Reich was nearly forty, and reflects numerous influences that had made their mark on the composer’s life up to that point: bebop and Balinese gamelan, African drumming and modal jazz, the melismas of Perotin and the scat-singing of Ella Fitzgerald. These elements came together to define Reich’s essential harmonic language, one that had evolved well beyond the austere and reductive so-called minimalism of his earlier pieces.