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5.0 out of 5 stars The Ravishing Textures of Life
When a work of this stature invokes a level of profound and richly rewarding response from a listener, its difficult to know, or to offer any explanation for, just what it is that separates a work of this magnitude from music, even excellent music, which just doesn't reach this level of expression. And this isn't music that's likely to turn everybody's crank, either, as...
Published on Feb. 3 2004 by liberty janus

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good recording, but not as balanced as the original ECM one.
If I had to cite one piece of music that stood out as monumental landmark in the music somewhat problematically known as "minimalism", then Reich's 'Music for 18 Musicians' would be it. A beautiful, lush, shimmering piece which sounds as fresh now as it did when it was written about 25 years ago. The experience of listening to this piece never seems to...
Published on Aug. 26 2000 by Amazon Customer


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good recording, but not as balanced as the original ECM one., Aug. 26 2000
This review is from: Music for 18 Musicians (Audio CD)
If I had to cite one piece of music that stood out as monumental landmark in the music somewhat problematically known as "minimalism", then Reich's 'Music for 18 Musicians' would be it. A beautiful, lush, shimmering piece which sounds as fresh now as it did when it was written about 25 years ago. The experience of listening to this piece never seems to diminish, even with frequent listenings.
That said, the Nonesuch recording overall isn't nearly as well-balanced as the original ECM one. The all-important bass clarinets have been mixed lower. The Nonesuch recording also introduces index points for easy access to sections of the pieces, but the only way to really experience this piece is from start to finish, without a break.
In short, I would recommend the ECM recording over this one for overall sound. (It also has a beautifully apt cover design, featuring artwork by Reich's wife, Beryl Korot).
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Ravishing Textures of Life, Feb. 3 2004
By 
liberty janus (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Music for 18 Musicians (Audio CD)
When a work of this stature invokes a level of profound and richly rewarding response from a listener, its difficult to know, or to offer any explanation for, just what it is that separates a work of this magnitude from music, even excellent music, which just doesn't reach this level of expression. And this isn't music that's likely to turn everybody's crank, either, as by any standard that considers the vast range of kinds and qualities of music available in the world today, its unique, unusual, and insistently individualistic in almost every way.
This music is capable of functioning on any number of different levels, as the many Amazon reviews show. On a less complex level of response its ravishing surface textures can be accepted as simple ravishment, its simple harmonic structure can be enjoyed for its simplicity, and its flowing tempos can absorb a listener in the sheer sense of encompassing flow. Yet for many listeners the amazingly rich washes of sound arising from the intricate interlacing of simply repeated but subtly shifting motifs engender a complex, suffusing experience that somehow transcends any attempt to limit the listening response to individual elements or individual emotional responses. Like any great musical work this piece offers a more encompassing, synthesized representation of a way of looking at, responding to, and understanding the world, and any listener fortunate enough to have their synapses firing along the same lines is apt to experience a truly involving and powerful response.
This music offers a powerful metaphor of life itself. Not literal, not representational, not discursive, but cogent, coherent, and rich with the depth and involving flow of life. And not just a slice of life, but a whole, urgently encompassing sense of life's textures, and moods, and endless flowing depths and dynamics. It's really a glorious thing that music can do this, and Reich's stunning achievement with "Music For 18 Musicians" was to accomplish this with his own new vocabulary, which he brought to fully realized maturity in this piece, and which so clearly and simply reduces commentary about movements and styles to insignificance in the face of such patiently and potently mesmerizing expression, unfolding its layers of sound, meaning, and complexity out of such basic tools.
But it's also just simply a gorgeous example of sonic manipulation, with seemingly endless textures flowing in and out with the carefully modulated interplay of repeated tones and motifs. There's no need to invoke aesthetic theory, or to listen to this piece only when a totally involving musical symbolism is needed to reaffirm one's connection to the world, because its rich textural flow functions just fine as simple ravishment, and its simplicity of structure can soothe and involve simultaneously, and that flow - that glorious, by turns gentle and then insistent flow, can just carry a listener away in rapture.
A seminal work like "Music For 18 Musicians" occupies a rare space, and accomplishes with seeming ease what lesser works are unable to do, and in doing so demonstrates the function and the power of truly great music to organize sound into a coherent symbolic representation of life's endless flowing textures. And that's a wonderful thing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Steve Reich's "18", Dec 24 2003
This review is from: Music for 18 Musicians (Audio CD)
Steve Reich is a composer who I admittedly just recently discovered, and know very little about. On the whim of a recommendation from a trusted source, I ordered this album. Thank God for recommendations...
This album is performed by 18 musicians at the top of their games. This album is melodic, haunting, lush, groovy, complex. You cannot argue with Reich's intricate, interwoven melodies on various mallet percussion, piano, woodwinds, and voice. The melodies lay on top of each other and zigzag between each other for the full length of this brilliant work. You would think 60+ minutes of instrumental music put in one song would be dull, but there isn't a single dull moment to be found. This piece is as catchy as anything on Top 40 radio, and yet the genius and nuances are always there to be found, every time you listen.
The music is pretty hard to describe. As I mentioned, there are only 18 musicians on a handful of instruments. Reich's composition sees instruments entering and exiting with melodies that zigzag between, under, and over each other. The intense dynamics of the crescendos and decrescendos gives certain parts an almost electronic feel. This, along with the aforementioned layered entrances allows the piece to build, until it drops off about halfway through...and then starts again. Throughout all of this, there is the mallet percussion vamp that the song starts with in "Pulses". This music dances, it is alive. Each subsequent melody is as catchy as the last. The music will demand your attention and lull you into hypnosis at the same time. It is like a dreamlike trance put to music. It ebbs and it flows. It grooves. It must be heard to really understand, but it is awesome.
There's so much I want to say about this album, but I'm not really sure how. It has completely blown my mind. It is the ultimate fusion of artistic vision, musical genius, and accessibility.
True 5 Star Album. Highly recommended for all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Recording, Not A Live Performance, Dec 11 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Music for 18 Musicians (Audio CD)
I own all three recordings of Music For 18 Musicians; I suggest that for anyone who is truly interested in the work, owning all three is a must.
In order of preference for me, the recordings go ECM, RCA, and Nonesuch.
No recording of 18 quite captures the piece as it sounds live. (I've had the luck to see it twice with Steve Reich & Musicians at the San Francisco Symphony.) However, the ECM version comes close to duplicating the timbre of the real thing. To my ears, it sounds the most "live".
The RCA/Ensemble Modern recording is perhaps the best performed. Ensemble Modern emphasizes Reich's earlier philosophies about music as a process; they clearly delineate the various instruments and lines in the recording, and they properly accentuate the lead mallet lines. (I say "proper" because that's what it sounded like when I saw 18 performed live.) What this recording lacks in lush beauty, it gains in near-academic perfection.
The new Nonesuch recording was designed from the ground up to be a recording, not a live performance. Most instruments are close-mic'd, which gives the odd feeling of standing next to all of the instruments at the same time. I love it for its open spaces, surprising tempo, and stunning imaging of the mallet instruments. It is as lush and beautiful as the ECM recording, but I prefer the subtleties and pacing of the ECM more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars an opening to Western "classical music" from the East..., May 3 2001
By 
Autonomeus (a world ruled by fossil fuels and fossil minds) - See all my reviews
This review is from: MUSIC FOR 18 MUSICIANS (Audio CD)
This is the original recording, from 1978 (it was written between 1974 and 1976, and first performed in April 1976), and it is perfectly realized -- one of the two essential minimalist masterpieces, along with Riley's "In C." Reich's liner notes give a good idea of how it was constructed, referring to Balinese gamelan music, and West African drumming.
I was aware of this at the time of its release, because I listened to lots of ECM jazz, but did not hear it all the way through until recently as I became interested in contemporary composition. (I believe there was an excerpt on an ECM compilation I used to own called "Music for 54 Musicians"!)
"Music for 18 Musicians" is one of the most important creations of late 20th century music, and one of the most beautiful. Western "classical" music seems to be at an impasse at the turn of the millennium. Young, Riley and Reich pointed the way toward a synthesis with other musics, musics of the East, and of Africa. I see few signs that this is a deepening trend, but it should be, for the sake of us all. Compassion for all sentient beings! This music conveys that message.
So much music, so little time. I rarely pursue multiple recordings, but I may some day make an exception and look for Reich's more recent recording of this piece for Nonesuch. You can't go wrong with the original ECM, though!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Vital, March 11 2001
By 
Gavin Wilson - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: MUSIC FOR 18 MUSICIANS (Audio CD)
I remember in 1979 watching on TV the concert film that accompanied the release of this LP. I simply had to go out and buy the record the next day. For me it somehow seemed to be the next extrapolation in a sequence that started with Mike Oldfield's TUBULAR BELLS and continued with Tangerine Dream's RICOCHET.
Mind you, the girlfriend I was staying with found it intensely irritating. My wife's reaction has always been similar. I know professional musicians who find Reich's music both extremely demanding and frustrating to play. My children cannot believe that anyone would listen to Steve Reich's music out of choice!
It's impossible to sit on the fence about Reich's music. Me, I just love it. My LP got terribly worn, so it was a godsend when this CD version was released. It is the better of the two versions I own -- I also have the Nonesuch edition -- even though the sound quality is not as good and the CD consists of just a single track. The key reason for owning this version, apart from its place in music history, is that the piano on the best section (which starts around 26:00) is much more dominant in the mix than on the Nonesuch edition.
As others have written here, this is fantastic driving music, and it would certainly be in my Top Ten of CDs to take to a desert island. Wonderfully hypnotic trance music. Everyone ought to have a copy, but Amazon has made it difficult to find, hiding it in 'Classical Music' and not even filing it under 'Steve Reich'.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Consider other recordings..., Feb. 2 2001
By 
enolcmelca (MINNEAPOLIS, MN USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Music for 18 Musicians (Audio CD)
Many other reviews comment generally on the beauty of this piece. Here are my concise views and recommendations:
-This recording is sonically precise, but slow and less organic than others available (e.g. the ECM recording). The sense of the overall tapestry of the work is diminished by the close miking one hears throughout. Certain little blips or phrases are artificially highlighted for too long. Too bad, because re-recordings of other works (such as Music for Mallets, Voices, and Organ) also seem to ephasize individual instruments above an overall wash from the ensemble without picking up on little bits of phrases from one instrument too much.
Recommendations: --For a first listen, the ECM recording is essential. It preserves the sense of this piece occurring in a performance space. Having heard the piece live twice, the role of reverb and the concert hall is considerable. Only the ECM recording comes close to hearing this piece live.
--If you want a dead-on reading, with maximum clarity of each line, I recommend the Ensemble Modern recording. Their performance is closer to what seems the natural tempo. Their mixing establishes the interplay between the parts very clearly without "artifically" highlighting certain parts too much, as seems to happen in Reich's second recording.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Truly, one of the most fascinating pieces ever written, Nov. 1 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Music for 18 Musicians (Audio CD)
As a professional, conservatory-trained violinist, I was raised in the world of "common practice" classical music, and have always been wary of anything that's been labeled "avante-garde." (In my undergraduate years, I admit I was a bit scared off by a casual listening of Reich's "Come Out.") But recently I thought I'd give this piece a try, and my appreciation of music--in general!--has been completely transformed. The rich, tonal sonorities cannot be compared with any previous works of his generation.
This is not background music, nor is it intended to be hypnotizing. It should be listened to with concentration, to fully enjoy the richness of the harmonies, and to sort out the vertical layers of sound Reich so masterfully constructs with the simplest of materials. Reich wrote his music so that the music itself becomes a process of unfolding melodic and rhythmic patterns, and listening to this piece becomes a process of discovering them. You would never believe that listening to almost 68 minutes of "repeated notes" could be so fascinating.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Landmark work!, Oct. 15 2000
This review is from: Music for 18 Musicians (Audio CD)
Having heard the arguments of both the pro-Reich and anti-Reich camps, I figured it was time to explore things for myself. Admittedly, the first time I heard this piece several years ago, it absolutely turned my stomach. I found it to be an assault on everything I had ever considered music to be. A friend kept insisting that I listen to it, he said "You have to listen to it all the way through, and it helps if its raining outside." I thought those were odd instructions for listening, but I tried it the next time it rained. For some reason, the water coming down naturally helped bring out the shimmering, water quality of this music. (I got an added bonus in that it was raining but still sunny the first time I listened all the way through.)
Now, I don't need it to rain to listen to it. I'm not saying that this is an easy piece to listen to, but it grows on you. The subtle shifts become magical over time and you see how sometimes minimalism is really maximizing. Reich is able to take a limited palatte of colors and work a vivid and varied rainbow of sound. I was most amazed to find there were no electronics, samples, etc in the piece. I thought for sure this was an electro-acoustic work. When I found out that it was all performed live with no tape, that's when I became more impressed.
The voice parts must be incredibly difficult. Granted this music is not for everyone, and its not even my favorite of all time (not even close), but for those out there that want to try something different, and are willing to experiment with an academic form of music, this is THE place to start. Another good thing about it is, that unlike a lot of contemporary music, this isn't a bunch of dissonant noise. Cello, violin, clarinets, pianos, sopranos and a myriad of mallet instruments make for an interesting combination.
This is highly recommended to the classical music lover that wants to step into minimalism or is an accessible point of entry into classical music for fans of more popular/alternative forms of rock music. It takes some patience to get used to, but it can be really good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Truly an Experience. Still the best recording by far., Aug. 29 2000
This review is from: MUSIC FOR 18 MUSICIANS (Audio CD)
There are few pieces in my opinion that one can continually return to and still be as moved as when they heard it for the first time, never tiring of hearing the same music; but for me, this was one such piece. Seven years after originally buying it, 'Music for 18 Musicians' still sounds as fresh as on that first day.
Along with Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue', 'St. Matthew Passion', and Nancarrow's 'Studies', Music for 18 Musicians was for me one of those rare landmark musical events that dramatically changed the whole way I thought about music.
18 Musicians suits the characteristic sound of the ECM label perfectly. Of the three recordings now readily available (the other two being the Nonesuch and the RCA Victor) this is by far the best and most balanced. ECM also resisted the temptation to split the piece into separate tracks, resulting in a CD with one single track on it - which is how this piece should be heard. The cover art (which, incidentally is by Reich's wife, the artist Beryl Korot) is ideally suited to the wonderful, shimmering sonic experience that is 18 Musicians. Indeed, everything about this release is just right.
If you buy only one Minimalist CD in your life, then buy Music for 18 Musicians, and if you decide to buy it, make sure it's this recording!
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