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Steve Reich is the master of minimalism, but his seminal composition Drumming, written at the start of the '70s, took his title to a new level. The piece is played exclusively on percussion (plus human voices); Reich wrote it after going to Ghana and soaking up some of the musical traditions there, as both the polyrhythms and organic qualities of the work attest. Drumming is divided into four sections. The first three are led by different instruments, each accumulating variations on a single rhythmic idea. Part I features four sets of bongos (played with sticks) at the forefront. The gradually evolving flurry of bongos gives way to the hypnotic patterns of three marimbas accented by wordless vocals in Part II. The gentlest section of Drumming, Part III, finds the patterns played on glockenspiels, for a somewhat celestial effect accented by a whistling piccolo (intruding on the percussion-only idea). After breaking down to a single beat by the start of Part IV, things build up to an orgiastic frenzy featuring all hands on deck banging out a dizzying din of patterns before stopping on a dime.

Customer Reviews


A fantastic journey of harmonic texture and color.


Hypnotic. One of NPR's 100 Greatest pieces of American Music.


Born: October 3, 1936 in New York, NY

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A highly influential avant-garde composer and one of the key founders of the minimalist school of music, Reich has embraced a wide variety of musical styles and interests, forging from them a unique synthesis. Reich took piano lessons as a youngster, but his first big musical revelations came at 14, when he encountered the music of Bach and Stravinsky. He also had his first exposure to bebop, and immediately started learning drums and playing in a jazz band with friends. He played on weekends while...
Full Bio

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