Saturday, 15 December 2018

Steve Reich's Music For 18 Musicians

The current series of Radio 3's The Essay features authors talking about a piece of music that has been significant to them and their creative development. They explore how pieces inspire creativity through mood, narrative or structure, inviting us to step into the music – and the author’s – inner world. In this episode, New York based author and journalist Hermione Hoby discusses Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians, a piece of music that she has listened to almost every day for the last seven years. In this short radio essay she reveals how this classic piece of minimalism helps her write.

This is one of my favourite pieces of music, and I was fortunate enough to be able to see it performed at Glasgow City Hall. I was utterly mesmerized and in awe of the performers who maintained full concentration throughout the performance. To listen to Music For 18 Musicians is to have an experience, you do not just hear it, you feel it, it has a physical impact.

Hoby describes the work as "music that sounds like what it feels like to write well." She continues, " The opening xylophone notes- are optimistic, clear, urgent, devoid of panic, full of confidence and clarity, - How i want to feel when writing. The pulses are hypnotic and the piece sounds like an experiment that is alive, exploratory, a living construction, built on repetitions, striking enough to drive you ahead, but also distant enough to be able to fade into the background when your own creative juices begin to flow." 

Like Hoby, I find it fairly easy to work at the same time as listening to the music. One of the factors that makes it easy for me to do this is that it features no words. It also helps that there is no solo piece, no musician that dominates and therefore it all seems to work together. 

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