Harmonious Life: Interview with Steve Reich, by Dan Fox & Mark Godfrey, Frieze Magazine, October 2006

Just came across this interview with Steve Reich published in Frieze Magazine back in 2006:

“Steve Reich is one of the most important American composers of the past 40 years. With influences including Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, John Coltrane, African drumming, Balinese Gamelan and Hebrew sacred music, Reich’s music has been a major inspiration for subsequent generations of musicians such as Brian Eno, Bang On a Can and Sunn0))). Often misdescribed as ‘minimalist’, Reich’s music is characterized by a complex integration of harmonic invention and rhythmic construction; from groundbreaking early works using multiple tape loops and a rigorous focus on process, through multimedia collaborations with his wife, the artist Beryl Korot, to his recent major compositions for voice and orchestra You Are (Variations) (2004) and Daniel Variations (premiered this autumn). On the occasion of ‘Steve Reich @ 70’, an international series of concerts celebrating the composer’s 70th birthday, Dan Fox and Mark Godfrey talk to him about his music and relationship to visual art

Mark Godfrey: From the beginning of your practice there’s been a strong relationship between your music and the visual arts. You were aware of seriality in American art in the mid-1960s, as in the work of Sol LeWitt, for example. However, seriality meant something completely different in terms of the dominant European music of the time. Could you explain a little what the difference is between seriality in music and seriality in visual art?

Steve Reich: In serial music the 12-tone series of notes has no harmonic relationship between one note and another, and cannot really be heard as a pattern. Maybe Pierre Boulez could hear it, but this was something most musicians would have to take on faith, not something they could perceive as listeners. Visual serial art was very obviously repeating a given image or varying it in some way that one could walk into a room and immediately grasp it. You see Andy Warhol’s many Mona Lisas, and within five seconds you know you are looking at many Mona Lisas – you don’t have to be given a theory. In my music what I was striving for was something much more connected with American serial art. It was a rejection of European musical seriality…”