Steve Reich (b. 6 October 1937, New York City) has been called "America’s greatest living composer" (Village Voice), "the most original musical thinker of our time" (The New Yorker), and "among the great composers of the century" (The New York Times).
Reich’s musical legacy has been influential on composers and mainstream musicians all over the world. His music is known for steady pulse, repetition, and a fascination with canons; it combines rigorous structures with propulsive rhythms and seductive harmony and instrumental color.
Born in New York and raised there and in California, Reich graduated with honors in philosophy from Cornell University in 1957. For the next two years, he studied composition with Hall Overton, and from 1958 to 1961, he studied at the Juilliard School of Music with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti. Reich received his master’s degree in music from Mills College in 1963, where he worked with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud. His studies have also included Balinese gamelan, African drumming (at the University of Ghana), and traditional forms of chanting of the Hebrew scriptures.
Different Trains and Music for 18 Musicians, as well as an album of his percussion works, have earned Grammy Awards, and Double Sextet won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Reich’s documentary video opera works—The Cave and Three Tales, done in collaboration with video artist Beryl Korot—have pushed the boundaries of the operatic medium and have been presented on four continents.
Reich’s music has been performed by major orchestras and ensembles around the world, including the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics; London, Sydney, San Francisco, Boston, and BBC symphony orchestras; London Sinfonietta; Kronos Quartet; Ensemble Modern; Ensemble Intercontemporain; Ensemble Signal; International Contemporary Ensemble; Bang on a Can All-Stars; Alarm Will Sound; and eighth blackbird. Several noted choreographers have created dances to his music, such as Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Jirí Kylián, Jerome Robbins, Justin Peck, Wayne McGregor, Benjamin Millepied, and Christopher Wheeldon.
Reich was awarded the Gold Medal in Music by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2012. He was named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, as well as member in the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. His honors include the Grand Prix artistique de la Fondation Simone et Cino Del Duca in Paris, Praemium Imperiale in Tokyo, the Polar Music Prize in Stockholm, the BBVA Award in Madrid, the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, the 2016 Nemmers Prize in Music Composition from Northwestern University, as well as the Schuman Award from Columbia University, the Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College, and the Regent’s Lectureship at the University of California at Berkeley. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Royal College of Music in London, the Juilliard School, the Liszt Academy in Budapest, and the New England Conservatory of Music, among others.
In November 2018, Susanna Mälkki led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the world premiere of Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra. His first orchestral work in over 30 years, the piece is an extension of the Baroque concerto grosso, featuring a group of 20 soloists pulled from the orchestra’s ranks. This season, the work continues to tour to Europe and stateside, including the New York premiere performed by the New York Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden in December. Another recent work, Reich/Richter—Reich’s music for a film by Gerhard Richter and Corinna Belz—tours across the UK and Europe this season, with performances by the Britten Sinfonia, Ensemble intercontemporain, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic.
"There’s just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history and Steve Reich is one of them" (The Guardian).
This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with the following credit: Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.