Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Music for 18 Musicians

Music for 18 Musicians

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Music for 18 Musicians'
Start a new discussion about 'Music for 18 Musicians'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Music for 18 Musicians is a work of musical minimalism composed by Steve Reich
Steve Reich
Stephen Michael "Steve" Reich is an American composer who together with La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass is a pioneering composer of minimal music...

 during 1974-1976. Its world premiere was on April 24, 1976 at Town Hall, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. Following this, a recording of the piece was released by ECM New Series
ECM (record label)
ECM is a record label founded in Munich, Germany, in 1969 by Manfred Eicher. While ECM is best known for jazz music, the label has released a wide variety of recordings, and ECM's artists often refuse to acknowledge boundaries between genres...

. A recording of the opening sections is on Steve Reich's official website.

Music for 18 Musicians was written for a cello
Cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

, violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

, two clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

s (both players double on bass clarinet
Bass clarinet
The bass clarinet is a musical instrument of the clarinet family. Like the more common soprano B clarinet, it is usually pitched in B , but it plays notes an octave below the soprano B clarinet...

), four piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

s, three marimba
Marimba
The marimba is a musical instrument in the percussion family. It consists of a set of wooden keys or bars with resonators. The bars are struck with mallets to produce musical tones. The keys are arranged as those of a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural keys ...

s, two xylophone
Xylophone
The xylophone is a musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of wooden bars struck by mallets...

s, a metallophone
Metallophone
A metallophone is any musical instrument consisting of tuned metal bars which are struck to make sound, usually with a mallet.Metallophones have been used in music for hundreds of years. There are several different types used in Balinese and Javanese gamelan ensembles, including the gendér, gangsa...

, and four women's voices. In the introduction to the score, Reich mentions that although the piece is named Music for 18 Musicians, it is not necessarily advisable to perform the piece with that few players due to the extensive doubling it requires. With only 18 musicians, the parts are divided as follows:
  1. violin
  2. cello
  3. female voice
  4. female voice
  5. female voice
  6. piano
  7. piano
  8. piano and maracas
  9. marimba and maracas
  10. marimba and xylophone
  11. marimba and xylophone
  12. marimba and xylophone
  13. metallophone and piano
  14. piano and marimba
  15. marimba, xylophone, and piano
  16. clarinet and bass clarinet
  17. clarinet and bass clarinet
  18. female voice and piano


The piece is based around a cycle
Cycle (music)
A music cycle is when a section of a song/music is repeated.In music a cycle is a section which is repeated or repeatable indefinitely, with the end of a preceding repetition leading to the beginning of a succeeding repetition. Cycles may be melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, or based on some other...

 of eleven chords
Chord progression
A chord progression is a series of musical chords, or chord changes that "aims for a definite goal" of establishing a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord. In other words, the succession of root relationships...

. A small piece of music is based around each chord
Chord (music)
A chord in music is any harmonic set of two–three or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously. These need not actually be played together: arpeggios and broken chords may for many practical and theoretical purposes be understood as chords...

, and the piece returns to the original cycle at the end. The sections are aptly named "Pulse
Pulse (music)
In music and music theory, the pulse or tactus consists of beats in a series of identical yet distinct periodic short-duration stimuli perceived as points in time occurring at the mensural level...

s", and Section I-XI. This was Reich's first attempt at writing for larger ensembles, and the extension of performers resulted in a growth of psycho-acoustic
Psychoacoustics
Psychoacoustics is the scientific study of sound perception. More specifically, it is the branch of science studying the psychological and physiological responses associated with sound...

 effects, which fascinated Reich, and he noted that he would like to "explore this idea further". A prominent factor in this work is the augmentation of the harmonies and melodies and the way that they develop this piece. Another important factor in the piece is the use of human breath, used in the clarinets and voices, which help structure and bring a pulse
Pulse
In medicine, one's pulse represents the tactile arterial palpation of the heartbeat by trained fingertips. The pulse may be palpated in any place that allows an artery to be compressed against a bone, such as at the neck , at the wrist , behind the knee , on the inside of the elbow , and near the...

 to the piece. The player plays the pulsing note for as long as he can hold it, while each chord is melodically deconstructed by the ensemble, along with augmentation of the notes held. The metallophone
Metallophone
A metallophone is any musical instrument consisting of tuned metal bars which are struck to make sound, usually with a mallet.Metallophones have been used in music for hundreds of years. There are several different types used in Balinese and Javanese gamelan ensembles, including the gendér, gangsa...

 (unplugged vibraphone
Vibraphone
The vibraphone, sometimes called the vibraharp or simply the vibes, is a musical instrument in the struck idiophone subfamily of the percussion family....

), is used to cue the ensemble to change patterns or sections.

Some sections of the piece have a chiastic ABCDCBA structure, and Reich noted that this one work contained more harmonic movement in the first five minutes than any other work he had previously written.

Recordings


There have been many performances of the piece, and five commercial recordings:
  • The original ECM version played by Steve Reich and Musicians
    Steve Reich and Musicians
    Steve Reich and Musicians, sometimes credited as the Steve Reich Ensemble, is a musical ensemble founded and led by the American composer Steve Reich to perform his compositions. This ensemble has premiered many of Reich's works and has performed his works more than any other...

  • The Ensemble Modern version
  • The Nonesuch version, played by Reich and musicians along with new musicians, a new recording of which is included on Steve Reich: Works 1965-1995
    Steve Reich: Works 1965-1995
    Steve Reich: Works 1965-1995 is a 1997 10-CD box set of compositions by composer Steve Reich released by Nonesuch Records as part of Reich's 60th birthday celebration. Described as, "monumental... essential.....

  • The Amadinda Percussion Group version, a live concert recording
  • The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble version
    • This 2007 Innova release, the first recorded in surround sound, has received critical praise nationwide, including from Steve Reich, who stated, "A gorgeous and stunningly accurate CD of Music for 18 Musicians, from the heartland to the heart. Take a listen."

External links