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Miles Davis and Steve Reich



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    This paper will briefly discuss some of the music of Miles Davis and Steve Reich. While both of these composers were instrumental in the development of the kinds of music they composed and played, they have very different sounds. Steve Reich created minimalist music, while Miles Davis created jazz. In 1959, Miles Davis released, ”Kind of Blue”, the best-selling jazz album ever. It was an example of a new type of jazz, called modal jazz. I listened to “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Summer Night”. On Green Dolphin Street” starts out quietly and reminds me of a loud, smoke filled club in a movie from the 60’s. I especially liked the muted trumpet. The sound was easy to hear, not harsh on the ears-the saxophone was smooth, but kind of louder than the song needed. “Summer Night” began with the muted trumpet again, and the whole song was incredibly easy to listen to. It really sounded like a hot, sticky summer night when all you want to do is lie around with a very cold drink.

    I thoroughly enjoy Miles Davis’ music-to keep in the spirit, I even have the album “Kind of Blue”. Though I am not particularly fond of jazz (especially of the ‘elevator music’ type), it is obvious that there was thought, time and talent put in every moment of what I’ve heard of Davis. There seems to be plenty of melody and just enough improvisation to keep things interesting, but not get dry or tiresome. Steve Reich was a composer of the minimalist style of music. He used many types of media to create his music.

    The class textbook describes Reich as the acknowledged old master of the minimalist style and having little experience with this type of music I cannot agree or disagree with this statement- however, I can offer my opinion. I read through the text and Steve Reich website, listened to the “Music for 18 Musicians” and found that I disliked the sounds that I heard. So I watched all of the videos and listened to the required MP3 four more times. While I find the sound in most of his compositions as what I would gladly use as an alarm ring tone on my cell phone, I appreciate what he is trying to accomplish by audibly breaking own what could be melodies or patterns. If I approach each composer with the qualifications I need met to be an incredible piece of music, I do not think that Steve Reich would be qualified as a “Classical composer” insofar as I am not transported to a place of contentment, or emotionally moved by his works. I am mostly irritated, though (and this in itself is a movement of emotion), so if I am playing devil’s advocate-just because I don’t like the way it sounds, does not mean that Reich is not an actual Classical composer.

    The manipulation of sound, the digression of a simple melody is kind of what made Gregorian chanting into “Western” music, after all, and Classic Rock became the product of all the music before it. (Maybe I really owe Steve Reich a very large thank you. ) One of Steve Reich’s pieces, “Music for 18 Musicians”, was an early classic for the minimalist style. Reich was heavily influenced by the gamelan orchestras and was thinking of orchestration and harmony when he wrote this piece. He was vehement about the bass being the key for this piece of music and wanted to remove the middle register by starting with a series of chords.

    I believe that there are a few (very few) number of similarities between Steve Reich and Miles Davis. Artistically, there are similarities in the structure of the music and the way simple harmonies or chords are broken down and expounded upon. Apart from this, I cannot hear many similarities. While Miles Davis makes me feel comforted and relaxed with his melodies and wondering music, Steve Reich makes me wonder what exactly is going on in this bad science fiction movie I’m watching.

    Miles Davis and Steve Reich. (2017, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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