Jump to content

Music for 18 Musicians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Music for 18 Musicians is a work of minimalist music composed by Steve Reich during 1974–1976. Its world premiere was on April 24, 1976, at The Town Hall in the Midtown Manhattan Theater District. Following this, a recording of the piece was released on the ECM New Series in 1978.


In his introduction to the score, Reich mentions that although the piece is named Music for 18 Musicians, it is not necessarily advisable to perform the piece with that few players due to the extensive need for musicians to perform on multiple instruments.

The piece is based on a cycle of eleven chords. A small piece of music is based on each chord, and the piece returns to the original cycle at the end. The sections are named "Pulses", and Section I–XI. This was Reich's first attempt at writing for larger ensembles, and the extension of performers resulted in a growth of psychoacoustic effects, which fascinated Reich, and he noted that he would like to "explore this idea further". A prominent factor in this work is the augmentation of the harmonies and melodies and the way that they develop this piece. Another important factor in the piece is the use of human breath, used in the clarinets and voices, which help structure and bring a pulse to the piece. The player plays the pulsing note for as long as they can hold it, while each chord is melodically deconstructed by the ensemble, along with augmentation of the notes held. The metallophone (unplugged vibraphone), is used to cue the ensemble to change patterns or sections.

Some sections of the piece have a chiastic ABCDCBA structure, and Reich noted that this one work contained more harmonic movement in the first five minutes than any other work he had previously written.


There have been many performances of the piece, and several commercial recordings:

The version on Works 1965–1995 lasts just over an hour.

The remix album Reich Remixed includes an interpretation of Music for 18 Musicians by the British duo Coldcut.[8]


With only 18 musicians, the parts are divided as follows:

  1. violin
  2. cello
  3. female voice
  4. female voice
  5. female voice
  6. piano
  7. piano
  8. piano and maracas
  9. marimba and maracas
  10. marimba and xylophone
  11. marimba and xylophone
  12. marimba and xylophone
  13. metallophone and piano
  14. piano and marimba
  15. marimba, xylophone, and piano
  16. clarinet and bass clarinet
  17. clarinet and bass clarinet
  18. female voice and piano


  1. ^ Nonesuch.com
  2. ^ Amadinda.com
  3. ^ Music for 18 Musicians CD Press Quotes
  4. ^ "Rough Fields". burning ambulance. 18 May 2014. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  5. ^ Review of Harmonia Mundi version
  6. ^ "Erik Hall: Music for 18 Musicians". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  7. ^ "Recordings | Colin Currie Group". www.colincurriegroup.com. Retrieved 2023-04-30.
  8. ^ Shatz, Adam (14 March 1999). "Revisiting Steve Reich For the Dance Floor". The New York Times.

External links[edit]