Arguably, no living composer of what’s nominally known as classical music has had a stronger influence on contemporary alternative-rock strains than Steve Reich, a pioneering minimalist whose insistent, coruscating rhythms and trance-inducing flow have had an impact on David Bowie, Brian Eno, Tortoise, Sufjan Stevens and plenty more. Godspeed You! Black Emperor even named an unreleased song for him.
But where most highbrow composers choose to remain above the populist fray, Reich has rolled up his sleeves and borrowed back some of what rock has derived from his work—no surprise, given that he was mingling with the Grateful Dead back in his Bay Area salad days. Radio Rewrite, Reich’s newest major piece, borrows bits of two Radiohead songs, “Everything in Its Right Place” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” endowing the fragments with his trademark shimmer.
You could hardly ask for an ensemble better suited to interpreting Reich and intuiting Radiohead than Alarm Will Sound, Alan Pierson’s brash collective of instrumentalists, singers and composers. And if you’ve yet to encounter Reich’s canon, the rest of the program—Clapping Music, Piano Counterpoint, City Life, Four Genesis Settings (as in the Bible, not the band) and New York Counterpoint—provides a concise overview of one of America’s foremost artists.—Steve Smith