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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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Repetition, Speech, and Authority in Steve Reich’s “Jewish” Music

Repetition, Speech, and Authority in Steve Reich’s “Jewish” Music

(p.113) 5 Repetition, Speech, and Authority in Steve Reich’s “Jewish” Music
Rethinking Reich

Robert Fink

Oxford University Press

Steve Reich’s “Jewish” works are logocentric to the core and thus, for all their sonic exuberance, culturally conservative. Beginning with experimental tape works like It’s Gonna Rain (1965) and My Name Is (1967), and blossoming into extended speech-driven multimedia “operas,” Reich doggedly explored his sense that the human voice transmitted something like prophetic Truth, tracing out his own path from the patriarchal tradition of Hebrew cantillation to the “self-presence” that philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau found at the origin of human language. As a composer, Reich put his musical ear (and his digital sampler) at the service of the logos, deriving both the visuals and the music of The Cave from distinctive speech patterns of its various “talking heads.” And yet, as Jacques Derrida famously noted, speech, music, and writing are not so easily separated—and the composer’s intent is exceeded by the complexity of his word-saturated operatic language.

Keywords:   Steve Reich, The Cave, logocentrism, Jacques Derrida, Jewishness in music, cantillation, metaphysics of presence

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