Steve Reich at 80: The Phases Of A Lifetime In Music

作者:未知 来源:美国国家公共电台 2016-10-10

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

David Bowie, Brian Eno, Radiohead - these are just some of the artists and bands who have looked up to American composer Steve Reich. Since the 1960s, Reich's music has won him fans across many genres and a Pulitzer Prize. This month, Reich is celebrating his 80th birthday, and NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas got to spend some time with Reich at his home.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Steve Reich is a quintessential New Yorker. He's a fast talker, he's usually dressed in all black, and his outfit is always topped off by a baseball cap. And he vividly remembers how much September 11 reshaped his city.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

STEVE REICH: When I interviewed every friend and every neighbor, I asked them one question, which is - do you think this could happen again? And do you think it could happen again in New York? And everybody said, do I think it can happen again? It's not a question of if. It's a question of when.

TSIOULCAS: That's Reich from an NPR interview 10 years after the attack on the premiere of his composition "WTC 9/11."

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "WTC 9/11")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I was taking my kids to school.

TSIOULCAS: The composer took his neighbor's memories...

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "WTC 9/11")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The first plane...

TSIOULCAS: ...And interspersed them with emergency calls from first responders and a string quartet.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "WTC 9/11")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...Went straight over our heads and into the building.

TSIOULCAS: The last movement includes the recollections of Jewish women who sat with victims' remains.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "WTC 9/11")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I would sit there and recite songs all night. Recite songs all night.

TSIOULCAS: Steve Reich was born to a Jewish family, but he did not grow up observant. Sitting in his upstate New York home, he says he only started delving into traditional Judaism in the mid-1970s after a trip to Ghana in West Africa to study drumming.

REICH: When I came home, one of the things I thought about is this is incredible. Here's a tradition that's been handed down from father to son, from mother to daughter for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. Don't I have anything like that? Then I began thinking, you know, I'm a member of the oldest existing group that has still remained somewhat cohesive for, you know, going on 3,500 years. And I don't know anything about it. So I thought, well, maybe I ought to go looking in my own backyard and dig up the crabgrass (laughter) and see what's there.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "TEHILLIM PART I - FAST")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Singing in Hebrew).

TSIOULCAS: Reich began using words as a basis for music back in the 1960s, experimenting with tape recordings and manipulating their speed. His 1966 piece, "Come Out," was inspired by the case of the Harlem Six, young African-American men who were arrested after a riot and accused of murder. Daniel Hamm was one of them, and his case was later overturned. At the beginning of the piece, Hamm describes being beaten by police.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "COME OUT")

DANIEL HAMM: I had to, like, open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them - I had to, like, open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them -

REICH: "Come Out" was done as a civil rights piece. The world premiere of "Come Out" was as pass-the-hat music for the retrial of the Harlem Six in Town Hall.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "COME OUT")

HAMM: Come out to show them - come out to show them - come out to show them.

TSIOULCAS: Reich has continued to find music in speech, hearing melody in the flow of words.

REICH: I mean, what tells you more about a person, a photograph of them or recording of their voice?

TSIOULCAS: He took voices from his own life experiences to create "Different Trains" in 1988.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "DIFFERENT TRAINS")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: From Chicago to New York. From Chicago.

TSIOULCAS: Reich spent much of his childhood on trains, shuttling between his divorced parents in New York and Los Angeles. This was the late 1930s and early '40s. As a grownup, Reich realized that if he'd been a Jewish child in Europe back then he would've been riding trains under very different circumstances. In his composition, he used the voices of his governess, a Pullman porter and three Holocaust survivors to compare those experiences.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "DIFFERENT TRAINS")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: The war is over. The war is over.

TSIOULCAS: The melody of the human voice became one of Reich's signatures. He quotes Czech composer Leos Janacek.

REICH: Speech melody is like a water lily whose roots go down to the bottom of the soul.

TSIOULCAS: But he's also a drummer who likes to play with time, and another recurring device in his music is called phasing. Adam Sliwinski is a member of So Percussion, and Reich's piece, "Drumming," is a touchstone for the group. He explains how phasing works.

ADAM SLIWINSKI: We think of it as, like, when you're in your car and you've got your windshield wipers on and the person in front of you has their windshield wipers on. And it looks for a minute like they're perfectly together.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "DRUMMING")

SLIWINSKI: But then you notice that they're kind of coming apart. One of them is slightly faster. And then you think that maybe they're exactly opposite from each other, but then they come back together again. That's a lot of what phasing is and what it feels like.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "DRUMMING")

TSIOULCAS: Sound is what appeals to Steve Reich - all kinds.

REICH: I became a composer because I had heard the "Rite Of Spring" of Stravinsky, I had heard bebop - Charlie Parker, Miles Davis - music which had a lot of rhythmic energy, music which was finally harmonic. They all have what Stravinsky called the magnetic attraction, the polaric attraction of sound.

TSIOULCAS: When he began, Reich was an outsider. Now his work is embraced by temples of high culture around the world. He'll be celebrating his 80th birthday in some of them with two new works next month. Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE REICH'S "MUSIC FOR MALLET INSTRUMENTS, VOICES AND ORGAN")

MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. BJ Leiderman writes our theme music. I'm Rachel Martin.

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