Music for 18 Musicians
Though Steve Reich had been an innovator for years before composing Music for 18 Musicians in the mid-'70s, this is the work that would be regarded as his masterpiece—a massively influential piece with a profound effect on everything from techno to post-rock. It expanded on Reich's earlier ideas about repetitive, interlocking motifs that evolve slowly over time. This was the first time Reich had applied those ideas to such a large ensemble, and when it earned renown it introduced a whole new musical approach to the larger world. Like some of Reich's other '70s pieces, 18 Musicians is influenced by his study of Balinese gamelan music's complex but organic structure. This work is divided into 14 sections—a dozen that revolve around a small set of chords, featuring strings, pianos, woodwinds, tuned percussion, and vocals in various combinations, bookended by the rhythmic insistence of two "Pulses" sections. Throughout 18 Musicians the length of the phrases is dependent on the players' own natural breath capacities, lending a very human feel to the often otherworldly atmospheres of the piece.