cover image Conversations


Steve Reich. Hanover Square, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-335-42572-0

Avant-garde composer Reich (Writings on Music, 1965–2000) talks shop with friends and colleagues in these intimate discussions. In meandering conversations with 19 peers—among them rocker composers Brian Eno and Jonny Greenwood, Broadway tunesmith Stephen Sondheim, and choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker—he explores his musical innovations in such compositions as It’s Gonna Rain, Drumming, and Music for 18 Musicians, all of which feature long, repetitive, rhythmic arrangements and deconstructions of spoken words and instrumental motifs, with tempos that go subtly off kilter. Topics touched on include the influence of Reich’s teachers and collaborators; Manhattan’s minimalist music scene in the 1960s and 1970s; the intricacy and difficulty of rehearsal sessions; and unpredictable public reactions (one Carnegie Hall audience for Four Organs became so “unruly” that the performers couldn’t hear each other). Aimed at professional musicians, the book’s talk of music theory and arcana can be heavy going (“The whole piece keeps moving in a cycle of four different key signatures, always moving up a minor third. Notice I don’t say D to F to A-flat to B, because it may be major, or minor or modal or chromatically altered”). Still, the intriguing lore and insights are sure to quench the thirst of hardcore fans. Agent: Jim Kendrick, Alter Kendrick & Baron. (Mar.)