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Love List:
Steve Reich

by Nicolette Fraillon AM, Music Director and Chief Conductor of The Australian Ballet

Love List is our new Spotify series where we ask friends of the Opera House to curate a playlist dedicated to a subject of their choice.

This week, to celebrate The Australian Ballet's production of Wayne McGregor's Dyad 1929 featuring in our digital season with Steve Reich's Pulitzer Prize-winning score, we asked The Australian Ballet's Music Director and Chief Conductor Nicolette Fraillon AM to pick her favourite Steve Reich works.

Reich is no stranger to the world of dance, his minimalist oeuvre being favoured by choreographers worldwide such as Douglas Lee (New York City Ballet) and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (Rosas). 

Read on to explore the hypnotic pleasure of Reich.

▷ Clapping Music (1972)

"This was one of the first pieces of Reich I ever heard -  fun, joyous, amusing and interesting. Was then, still is now."

 Double Sextet (2007)

"This is the music utilised in the ballet Dyad 1929.  It won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for music. It is brilliant structurally. It is energetic, driving, mind-bending to perform. It finishes by building to a wonderfully triumphant finale (triumphant also for we performers having made it to the end without falling off the ride!)"


The score for 'Music for 18 Musicians', taken at rehearsals for 'The Composers' residency, 2012. Photo: Daniel Boud

 Music for 18 Musicians (1976)

"For small ensemble this work feels sweepingly symphonic. Interesting structurally as it is based on a cycle of 11 chords. A challenging exercise in stamina for the performers, it is a powerful and impressive piece."

 Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards (1979)

"This piece has both cinematic and almost sacred qualities. It feels as though many stories are being told, simultaneously. Sweeping, layered chords provide backdrop and frame, for the rhythmic counterpoint of dancing wind ensembles."

Proverb (1995) 

"This is a very different composition to the others on the playlist. Set to text by Wittgenstein 'How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life'. Contemplative, hypnotic and entrancing."


Steve Reich in rehearsal with the Sydney Youth Orchestra for 'The Composers' residency, 2012. Photo: Daniel Boud

Six Pianos (1973)

"Another of my first encounters with Reich’s music. Who doesn’t love the visuals of six pianos lined up, and six pianists hard at work, focused? And the sound envelops you as does the energy of the music and the musicians."

 Pendulum Music (for microphones, amplifiers, speakers and performers) (1968)

"Best watched as well as heard. Interesting, funny, makes me smile as well as captivated by what might happen next."

Drumming (1971)

"Insane and magical. Communities of musicians, working together: arriving to join the fray; departing to take us in new directions; exploring colours, textures, the power of many, the brilliance of the individual. Is music but also performance art. I love it."

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