Composers Datebook®

Reich and Korot tell tales

Composers Datebook - May 12, 2024


In the 1960s, American composer Steve Reich prepared some electronic pieces consisting of gradually shifting tape loops of the same prerecorded — and enigmatic — spoken phrases excerpted from someone telling a story. Reich quickly realized he could produce the same effect with conventional instruments and live musicians. These repetitive patterns and the gradual shifts came to be labeled “minimalist.”

Three decades later, in May of 1993, Reich and his wife, the video artist Beryl Korot, created a large-scale piece they dubbed a “documentary video opera.” Titled The Cave, it investigated the roots of Christianity, Judaism and Islam through prerecorded interviews, images projected on multi-channel video screens, and live musical accompaniment utilizing the speech patterns of the interviewees as the starting point for much of the score.

On today’s date in 2002, at the Vienna Festival, Reich and Korot premiered another music theatre piece, Three Tales, intended as symbolic parables of technology in the 20th century, the three topics being the crash of the Hindenburg, the early atomic bomb tests in the Pacific Islands and the cloning of a sheep named Dolly.

Music Played in Today's Program

Steve Reich (b. 1936): Music for Large Ensemble; Alarm Will Sound and Ossia; Alan Pierson, conductor; Nonesuch 79546

On This Day


  • 1739 - Bohemian composer Johann Baptist Wanha (Vanhall) in Nechanicz

  • 1754 - German composer and publisher (of Mozart and Beethoven) Franz Anton Hoffmeister, in Rottenburg

  • 1755 - Italian violinist and composer Giovanni Viotti, in Fontanetto da Po

  • 1842 - French composer Jules Massenet, in Montaud, near St.-Etienne, Loire

  • 1845 - French composer Gabriel Fauré, in Pamiers (Ariège)

  • 1903 - English composer Sir Lennox Berkeley, in Boar's Hill, near Oxford

  • 1941 - American composer, harpsichordist and organist Anthony Newman, in Los Angeles


  • 1871 - French opera composer Daniel-François Auber, 89, in Paris

  • 1884 - Bohemian composer Bedrich Smetana, 60, in Prague

  • 1931 - Belgian composer, violinist and conductor Eugene Ysaÿe, 72, in Brussels


  • 1736 - Handel: opera Atalanta in London at the Covent Garden Theater. Handel dedicated the opera to the recently-married Frederick, Prince of Wales (Gregorian date: May 23).

  • 1832 - Donizetti: L'Elisir d'Amore (Elixir of Love), in Milan

  • 1894 - R. Strauss: opera Guntram, in Weimar, with Strauss conducting

  • 1917 - Bartók: ballet The Wooden Prince, in Budapest

  • 1926 - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1, by Leningrad Philharmonic, Nikolai Malko conducing

  • 1937 - Walter Damrosch: The Man Without a Country, in New York at the Metropolitan Opera

  • 1938 - Honegger: opera Joan of Arc at the Stake (concert performance) in Basel, Switzerland, at the Grosser Musiksaal. The first staged production occurred in Zürich on June 13, 1942.

  • 1938 - Korngold: premiere showing of Warner Brothers’ film The Adventures of Robin Hood

  • 1943 - Glière: Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, in Moscow

  • 1944 - Ginastera: Overture to the Creole Faust, in Santiago, Chile

  • 1980 - John Harbison: Concerto for Piano, at Alice Tully Hall in New York, with soloist Robert Miller and the American Composers Orchestra, Gunther Schuller conducting

  • 1983 - Earle Brown: Sounder Rounds for orchestra, in Saarbrücken, Germany

  • 2002 - Steve Reich & Beryl Korot: multi-media presentation Three Tales (Hindenburg, Bikini, and Dolly) at the Vienna Festival in Austria, by members of the Ensemble Moderne and Synergy Vocals, directed by Bradley Lubman

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®