is widely considered the third major pioneer of minimalism; credited as the innovator behind phasing -- a process whereby two tape loops lined up in unison gradually move out of phase with each other, ultimately coming back into sync -- his early experiments in tape manipulation also anticipated the emergence of hip-hop sampling by well over a decade.
was born October 3, 1936, in New York City, and later studied philosophy at Cornell University; while at the Juilliard School of Music, he turned to composition, finally landing at Mills College in Oakland, CA, under the tutelage of avant-garde composers
. During his collegiate years,
supported himself by drumming professionally; however, when his academic career drew to a close in 1963, he turned to driving a cab.
Around that same time, Reich
completed his first major compositions, Pitch Charts and the experimental film score Plastic Haircut. Issued in 1964, Music for Three or More Pianos was his first work to make use of tape loops, followed a year later by the landmark It's Gonna Rain, a phased piece constructed out of a 13-second sample of a sermon by the minister Brother Walter. Reich
again applied his phasing manipulations to the recorded voice on 1966's Come Out, but with 1967's Piano Phase and Violin Phase he began employing the process on acoustic instruments. Subsequent works continued expanding the parameters of the phasing concept -- while the above-mentioned Violin Phase could be played with one violin and electronic tape or with four violins, 1971's extended Drumming (inspired by a journey to Ghana) was scored for four pairs of bongos, three marimbas, three glockenspiels, and voice.Reich
's subsequent work veered from quintessential minimalism (1972's self-explanatory Clapping Music) to orchestral compositions (1976's Music for 18 Musicians, again everything its title promises), with the latter aesthetic becoming his primary focus in later years. Although Reich
was rarely recorded throughout his first decades as an artist, during the 1980s his major works finally began appearing on album, among them 1988's brilliant Different Trains
, a Holocaust-inspired piece created for live string quartet, pre-recorded string quartet, and sampled voices. (On LP it was paired with Electric Counterpoint, a composition for jazz guitarist Pat Metheny
that was later sampled by the U.K. ambient duo the Orb
on their hit "Little Fluffy Clouds.") Reich
's Jewish heritage continued playing a central role in his later work as well -- 1994's multimedia piece The Cave
retold the story of the prophet Abraham. As Reich
's trailblazing work came into fashion with the wave of late-'90s electronica, the remix album Reich Remixed
appeared in 1999. During the 2000s his major releases have included 2001’s Triple Quartet
; 2003's Three Tales
, a collaborative project with his wife, video artist Beryl Korot; and 2008’s Daniel Variations -- the aforementioned three albums were all issued, like many of his other projects, on the Nonesuch label.