Staff Picks: Music for 18 Musicians

Well, readers, it’s Wednesday… Not early enough in the week to talk about sweet new arrivals, and too far from the weekend to start getting excited about cool DC events. So what do we talk about?

The answer, readers, is our Staff Picks, a third new column here at the AU Music Library blog. In this column, our staff looks back into our extensive CD library (over 10,000 of ’em!) and picks something that we think is a special enough part of our collection to tell you about it! It may not be a new arrival, and it may not be a weekend activity, but it’s definitely worth coming in and listening to with us (and maybe checking out).

Our inaugural Staff Pick is Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians.

Steve Reich, one of THE names in 20th-Century classical music, took two years to compose this piece. It premiered in 1976 in New York City. This CD is ECM’s recording of the original ensemble (with Reich’s guidance) playing through the piece. One listen and you can understand why 18 Musicians is considered a landmark minimalist piece as well as an essential album in any genre.

The piece, nearly an hour long, is divided up into 14 tracks, each track representing a different section. It moves past you effortlessly and beautifully, following a 16th-note pulse through serene chords, with the 18 musicians switching among different instruments (including wordless vocals at points) and achieving fluid, soothing musical motion. Unless one plays very close attention, it is hard to hear the piece shifting along; the effect on a casual listener is an hourlong reverie. Put this album on and experience a meditative head-clearing. It’s impossible to listen to this without experiencing reduced stress.

So, if you’re experiencing some midterm-related rage, take an hour off in the music library, and come listen to Steve Reich with us. It’ll be on all week!