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Modern Composer Research Reaction

ModernComposer Research Reaction

Accordingto most common conceptions, music is an instrumental or vocal sound,or a combination of both in a specific way that produces harmony,beauty of form, and an expression of emotions. Other conceptionsstate that music is the printed or written signs, which representvocal or instrumental sounds. Music is different from sound in someaspects because it entails tonal harmony and some strict rules tofollow in order to produce beauty of form. This is an aspect thatsound does not necessarily have because sound does not necessarilyhave to incorporate any kind of harmony. This means the differencebetween the two could sometimes be very narrow based on the kind ofmusic or the type of sound being made. The aspect of harmony in vocaland the instruments used to produce sound and other components ofmusic can greatly determine the definition of music. I believe thatmusic must have a rhythm in addition to tonal harmony and otherstrict to follow in composition. This research paper will researchSteve Reich’s philosophy of music composition and react to thephilosophies with regard to personal conceptions of music.

SteveReich is one of the modern music composers in the contemporary world.He is currently known as the “America’s greatest living composer”by the New York Times. He is believed to be one among the greatestcomposers who have altered the direction of the history of musicbecause of the contributions his composition has made in the musicindustry. His music is distinguished by strong, steady as well asstrictly tonal harmonies and diatonic. His music falls in the sameclass with music by La Monte Young, Philip Glass, and recent youngcomposer in John Adams. Therefore, Steve Reich’s philosophy as faras music is concerned is that music is all about tonal harmony,strict diatonic and steady pulse. Steve Reich however, had a tendencyof repetition in his compositions. Nevertheless, his currentcompositions can show that he has shifted his focus from repeatingthings fast, to being very “seductive” music and melodies. Thebig ensembles play his harmonies. In as much as repetition is one ofthe most important ingredients of music, he used this tacticthroughout his career to a bigger extent that it became part of hisphilosophy (Hoek 117).

Repetitionensures that rhythms, vocals and sounds form a beautiful harmony, butonce it is overdone, the piece of music becomes boring. However,Steve Reich, being one of the greatest composers in our current worldhe employed other styles in his music to make it as satisfactory aspossible. His music has energetic pulse, jazzy harmony, andpropulsive rhythm and accompanied by a sound defined by its splendidmagnificence (Latham 1). I can say that Steve Reich’s musicalphilosophies differ with my philosophies in some aspects such as therhythm and tonal harmonies. My rhythmical preferences are the slowsoothing, and blues type while Steve Reich’s preference mustinclude energetic movements and speedy beats at some point. Further,Steve Reich prefers to use drums to pianos because drums produce themost original drum sound. This again differs with my preferencebecause my philosophy and preference does not have the option ofusing drums. Blues are usually slow music and drums are not soapplicable in slow music.

However,his philosophy is valid because jazzy and classical music doesrequire energetic movements, and rhythmical and tonal harmony. Thisis evident from the fact that Steve Reich did not prefer to use vocaland tonal harmony (Hoek 124), not until his music teacher told himthat if he wanted tonal and vocal harmony, then he must write thesame genre of songs. This is something he did even though it was notpart of his first priority preferences in the first place. Listeningto his compositions and analyzing his philosophies has helped me tobroaden my thinking. It has made me realize that there are manychannels, one can use to ensure that his piece of composition comesout great and make an impact to the lives of people. I have gainedknowledge about the composition of jazzy and classical music. Thishas helped me add some vigor to my compositions and energetic musicmakes listeners feel energized. It has also opened my minds to themany opportunities available to compose different genres of music(Hamberlin 446).

Manyrecognized orchestras and ensembles have performed dances to SteveReich’s music signifying the popularity of his music across theworld. One of the major orchestra that performed Steve Reich’smusic include the London Symphony Orchestra, which Michael TilsonThomas conducts, The Brooklyn Philharmonic, which Robert Spanoconducts and the San Francisco Symphony, also conducted by MichaelTilson Thomas (Steve CD). This signifies his popularity, and thepopularity of his pieces of art. Several other notable choreographerscreated dances from his music. This is because of the energeticaspect he gives his music. The use of drums here prompts listeners toshake a little bit because the music is somehow moving. However,dignified music does not necessarily have to prompt listeners todance. My composition considers this aspect because my philosophy isto touch people’s hearts. I believe that Steve Reich’s pieces ofmusic are applicable in parties and celebrations because people danceand make merry in such places. However, the music is not applicablein places where people need special attention and need to be talkedto very calmly (Latham 2).

Accordingto minimalism paradigm shift, music composition must change incontext of how to make sound, how it is heard and how listeners thinkabout the piece of art. We must say that Steve Reich was veryenthusiastic to find new words to fit the situations, and words thatcould generally reflect what he had in mind. In addition, these wordsmust be easy to understand by the listener because if listeners failto comprehend the meaning of the song, it thus becomes useless. Somecomposers compose music based on the things they have gone through(Hamberlin 447). This means that the art will be based on true storyabout the composer, or someone the composer is conversant with. Steve Reich being one of the minimalists, he believes in having hismusic being a gradual process in that the introduction of new musicaltechniques to an educated public must be a gradual process that isnot realized as the day dawns. Moreover, his content ofmoment-to-moment is the same. This is because he believes that therewould be no point for him as the composer not to introduce harmonicprocedures. These harmonic procedures include the cadentialprogressions and cord sequence. Minimalists believe in simplicity andthat simplicity his full o beauty, which gives rise to its ownspecial type of intricacy.

SteveReich ensured that he positions music and most of his compositions asprocesses with life in itself rather than a book that is closedwritten with dried ink. His composition “It’sGonna Rain”was based on recordings of a preaching he had heard concerning theend of the world. This means that most of his compositions are notbased on fictions or any other imaginations. In this piece ofcomposition though, Reich incorporates drumming with two identicalpatterns –“rhythmic or melodic units in the instrumental art, andspeech fragments in the tape segments” (Latham 4). This is however,unlike my philosophy that does not include drumming but doesincorporate one segment of it. The segment that I include in mycomposition is or melodic units in the instrumental art.

Inconclusion, musical composition is sometimes but a chronologicalevent of what happened to the composer in that situation. It could bethrough observation or first-hand experience that leads to thecomposition. For instance, Steve Reich composed a piece of musicabout TheDesert Trains,which gave a contrasting journey he took from New York to Los Angelesto stay with his parent. What transpires a composer to compose apiece of music can determine the type of genre that composer canwrite. In addition, a good piece of composition must have tonalharmony, strict diatomic, vocal and rhythmical harmonies in order toform a beautiful piece of music (Hamberlin 448). It is believed thatminimalism is the single most contributors to the kind of music mostpeople listen to in the contemporary world.


Hamberlin,Larry, “Music in the USA: A Documentary Companion” Journalof the Society for American Music, Vol.7 (4) 445-448, Judith Tick (Ed). New York NY: Oxford UniversityPress, 2013.

Hoek,David J. SteveReich: A Bio-Bibliography.Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press, 2002. Print.

Latham,Alison, “The Oxford Companion to Music,” OxfordMusic Online, NewYork, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Steve,Reich, TheDesert Music, Oct25, 1990, Michael Tilson Thomas, New York, NY, 1990, Audio CD.