Music for 18 Musicians.


Steve Reich:

Performed by Ensemble Signal.

On this CD, New York-based Ensemble Signal performs Steve Reich’s ‘Music for 18 Musicians’, a breakthrough composition of a pioneering composer who changed the course of 20th-century music.

‘Music for 18 Musicians’ is approximately 55 minutes long. The first sketches were made for it in May 1974 and it was completed in March 1976. Although its steady pulse and rhythmic energy relate to many of Mr. Reich’s earlier works, its instrumentation, structure and harmony are new.

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.

The structure of ‘Music for 18 Musicians’ is based on a cycle of eleven chords played at the very beginning of the piece and repeated at the end. All the instruments and voices play or sing the pulsating notes with each chord.

Instruments like the strings, which do not have to breathe, nevertheless follow the rise and fall of the breath by following the breathing patterns of the bass clarinet. Each chord is held for the duration of two breaths, and the next chord is gradually introduced, and so on, until all eleven are played and the ensemble returns to the first chord.

Ensemble Signal, described by the New York Times as “one of the most vital groups of its kind,” is a NY-based ensemble founded in 2008, dedicated to offering the broadest possible audience access to a diverse range of contemporary works through performance, commissioning, recording and education.

The Guardian, 22nd May 2015, wrote the following:

“this performance with a group of young musicians… points out, would not have been born when the piece was first performed – has the perfect combination of tightly disciplined ensemble playing and creative fantasy. There’s tremendous, unstoppable energy in this performance, an urgent edge to its textures and a surging power to its thrilling climaxes, that make the greatness of the music unmistakable.”

Here is Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich:



Tags: Steve Reich, Music for 18 musicians, Ensemble Signal