Music for 18 Musicians

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Music for 18 Musicians
The cover of the first recording, released by ECM
Studio album by Steve Reich
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic5/5 stars[1]
Robert ChristgauA−[2]
Classical Net(favorable)[3]
The Guardian5/5 stars[4]
PopMatters9/10 stars[6]
Sputnikmusic5/5 stars[7]
Rolling Stone(favorable)[8]

Music for 18 Musicians is a work of musical minimalism composed by Steve Reich during 1974–1976. Its world premiere was on April 24, 1976, at The Town Hall in New York City. Following this, a recording of the piece was released by ECM New Series.

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 doubling it requires. 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

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 psycho-acoustic 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 he 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.

In 2003, David Bowie included it in a list of 25 of his favourite albums, "Confessions of a Vinyl Junkie", calling it "Balinese gamelan music cross-dressing as minimalism."[9]


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


  1. ^
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Steve Reich". Robert Christgau.
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  5. ^ Walls, Seth (1 October 2016). "Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
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  8. ^ Rolling Stone, 18 April 1979, Steve Reich and Phillip Glass find a new way
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  12. ^ Music for 18 Musicians CD Press Quotes
  13. ^ Review of Harmonia Mundi version

External links[edit]