Steve Reich is one of those composers who have succeeded in carving out a niche for themselves in the world of contemporary music - that is, who have developed a readily identifiable individual idiom. Moreover, Reich is fully conscious of the various stages of that development and can pinpoint the influences over the past decades that have acted as catalysts. Beyond his teachers, who included Luciano Berio at Mills College in California, listening to music by Stravinsky in his teens played an important role, as did his experiences with jazz as played by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Kenny Clarke and others.
“Even more importantly, I became clear about the nature of canons as a basic compositional technique” – Reich says in an interview with Bálint András Varga. “Canons at the unison have since formed the basis of all my music. The entire ‘phasing’ technique discovered with tape loops in It’s Gonna Rain (1965) and then transferred to musical instruments with Piano Phase of 1967 can be correctly seen as a form of canonic procedure where the subject is short and the rhythmic distance between the two or more voices is constantly changing. In 1962, via a talk by Gunther Schuller, I examined A.M. Jones’s book Studies in African Music which, together with my work with tape loops in 1963, made me aware of the repetition of short patterns with their downbeats in different places as a new and radically different compositional technique. A few years later I encountered another book, Music in Bali by Colin MacPhee, which showed me, in notation, music made of repeating patterns played simultaneously in different note values so that one could hear rapid interlocking eighth notes, slower moving quarters, still slower half notes, and one huge gong which played only once per cycle of 64 beats”.