I first met Steve Reich in January 1995. Bang on a Can had started a chamber orchestra for which I was the conductor. Our first concert that January featured Reich's Eight Lines. After that concert, Michael Gordon introduced me to Reich.
The next morning, Reich called me to ask if I'd like to do the New York premiere the following year with his ensemble of his new work, City Life. I was delighted, to say the least. We've been very happily working together ever since. Whether with his ensemble (Steve Reich and Musicians) or Ensemble Modern, or my ensemble, Signal, his music, integrity and seriousness of purpose have had a major impact on me, both as a composer and conductor.
Prior to meeting Steve Reich in 1995, I was already a huge fan of many of his works, most notably Music for 18 Musicians, Tehillim, Octet (Eight Lines), Sextet, Three Movements, and Variations for Winds, Keyboards, Strings. Now that I have had the pleasure of conducting and/or coaching many of those pieces as well as The Cave, Three Tales, Daniel Variations, You Are (Variations), Triple Quartet, and Double Sextet, I can say that I find his music some of the most uplifting, joyous, inspiring music I know.
What is so striking to me is that there is a parallel with the music of Bach and Stravinsky in that the music itself is conceived and constructed with great compositional/musical integrity and design, yet shows such a strong and unique personality, conveying many ideas and feelings that go well beyond the surface of the compositions themselves.
In the mid 1960s, Reich felt that he had to develop his own musical voice, even if it did not fit in with the avant-garde, the prevailing modernism and its various schools of thought. In order to do this, he formed his own ensemble and strongly maintained his musical convictions. By so doing, he developed a unique musical language which in turn cast an overwhelming influence upon many generations of composers to follow. I have always admired this tenacity, and it remains a great source of inspiration for me.
Signal and Steve Reich: Brad Lubman joins John Schaefer for this September 12th, 2008 New Sounds interview.
Video clips from Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, performed by Signal at (Le) Poisson Rouge on September 14th, 2008.