Revolutionising music history.
Before the likes of Steve Reich, La Monte Young and Terry Riley came along in the '60s, avant-garde music was unintelligible for most people. But compared to the arhythmic, atonal compositions coming out of Europe, Reich and the so-called minimalists could be enjoyed by just about anybody. Pieces like Drumming or Six Pianos are tonal, repetitive and totally likeable. Although Reich was out of step with the academic music trends of the time, his work made an impact on broader culture rarely seen before. Nowadays, Reich appeals equally to techno producers, metal heads and classical fans alike, while his pleasant melodies and shifting rhythms profoundly influenced music written for the screen, be it Hollywood blockbusters or ads for health insurance.
In hindsight, Reich's universal popular and critical acclaim is taken as given, so it's easy to forget that he wasn't initially accepted by the establishment. In this conversation with Mark Smith recorded at Resident Advisor's conference programme at Dekmantel Festival, we hear how Reich drew on a diverse range of influences to build a sound that confused the academics but struck a chord in global culture.