This Minimalist composition is a shimmering latticework on which to hang your thoughts – The Boston Globe

Posted: June 23, 2020 at 4:44 pm


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The most relaxing music I know my musical go-to place for when the world is too much with me is Music for 18 Musicians, the warhorse of Classical Minimalism composed by Steve Reich in 1976. Some of you may find this improbable. Those who think of Minimalism as a four-hour dial tone by Philip Glass, for example. Or my sister, for whom Reichs piece is the equivalent of two Styrofoam blocks rubbed together and who has to leave the room the house, the state whenever I put it on.

But heres the trick: If the first time you listen to this hourlong progression of pulsing musical cells, you actually listen to it, you may go around the bend like my sister. The piece is constantly changing, but slowly, like a gradually revolving sphere. (It may help to think of it as sonic sculpture rather than music, in fact.)

Instead, put Music for 18 Musicians on any recorded version, there are many and dont listen to it. Do something else. Light housework. Meal prep. Balance your checkbook. As background, this ensemble work for strings, reeds, pianos, mallet instruments, and the human voice is a shimmering latticework on which to hang your thoughts. Its left-brain music that frees up the right: Ive written articles and entire books to 18 Musicians, and I dont have to give it attention when its providing me focus. So by the time you do choose to actively listen, Reichs masterpiece may feel familiar and welcome a chiming refuge from the worlds relentless forward momentum.

Ty Burr can be reached at ty.burr@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.

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This Minimalist composition is a shimmering latticework on which to hang your thoughts - The Boston Globe

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June 23rd, 2020 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Relaxing Music