In the 1960s, an American composer named Steve Reich prepared some electronic pieces consisting of gradually shifting tape loops of the same prerecorded – and somewhat enigmatic – spoken phrases. Reich quickly realized he could produce the same effect with conventional instruments and live musicians. The repetitive patterns and the gradual shifts of Reich’s music came to be labeled “minimalist.”
Considering its origins in electronics, it’s not surprising that “minimalist music” has been popular on record, like the Nonesuch CD of Reich’s “Music for Large Ensemble.”
In May of 1993, Reich and his wife, the video artist Beryl Korot, created a large-scale music theater piece they dubbed a "documentary video opera." Entitled “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 in Austria, Reich and Korot premiered another music theatre piece, entitled “Three Tales,” about technology in the 20th century. As symbolic parables of technology, Reich and Korot chose the Hindenburg dirigible crash, the early atomic bomb tests in the Pacific Islands, and the cloning of a sheep named Dolly – and, keeping in the spirit of technological advances, prepared a DVD version of their “Three Tales” as well.
Music Played in Today's Program
Steve Reich (b. 1936)Music for Large EnsembleAlarm Will Sound and Ossia; Alan Pierson, cond.Nonesuch 79546