Voices and Visionaries: New York Celebrates Steve Reich at 70

The Los Angeles Master Chorale at Alice Tully Hall on Saturday, October 28.

I attended this concert a week ago, and I’m still fussing over my blog entry. Writing about music is so difficult that for a while, I was tempted not to post anything about it. Ultimately, my obsessive-compulsively tendencies won out, though, so here I am trying to bring shape to my thoughts about Steve Reich’s music.

The concert opened with Reich’s iconic 1972 composition Clapping Music, with the composer himself as one of the clappers. This is the sort of music I associate most with Reich: a highly rhythmic work that holds intellectual interest but, for me at least, little emotional appeal. I follow the lines as the two performers move out of and into phase with each other. That progression is interesting and certainly innovative for the time—Reich is considered one of the most influential composers of the twentieth century—but it only engages my head.

I admit I didn’t know much of Reich’s work beyond such early minimalism, so I had no idea that the two choral works on the program, Tehillim (1981) and You Are (Variations) (2004), were going to be so engrossing. More fluid, more expansive, and more passionate, they captured my imagination, not just my intellect.