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Rethinking Reich$
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Sumanth Gopinath and Pwyll ap Siôn

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190605285

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190605285.001.0001

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“Machine Fantasies into Human Events”

“Machine Fantasies into Human Events”

Reich and Technology in the 1970s

(p.323) 14 “Machine Fantasies into Human Events”
Rethinking Reich

Kerry O’Brien

Oxford University Press

For most of 1968 and early 1969, Steve Reich devised and constructed his Phase Shifting Pulse Gate, a machine he designed along with an engineer. However, after only two performances Reich abandoned the machine and renounced the future use of electronic technology in his music, save amplification. Despite this compositional move, various critics of the early 1970s continued to describe Reich’s works in technological or mechanical terms, calling his music “controlling” or akin to the German word “Fließband” (assembly line). Rather than mechanical control, Reich claimed to seek bodily control and often compared his musical practice to yoga, a practice he had maintained for nearly a decade, which markedly informed his notions of musical time, compositional control, and performer freedoms. Drawing from unpublished essays and unreleased recordings, this chapter situates Reich’s music of the 1970s—from Drumming to Music for 18 Musicians—within a broader history of technologies of the body and mind.

Keywords:   Steve Reich, Phase Shifting Pulse Gate, technology, spirituality, yoga, minimalism, reception, Music for 18 Musicians

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