Friday, July 2, 2010

steve's suave shirts

I saw the new French documentary on Steve Reich, Phase to Face, at the Jacob Burns last night. Although there were a few anecdotes I hadn't heard before, as well as some nice footage of Bang on a Can performing 2 x 5, it was fairly underwhelming. The short length (52 minutes) and focus exclusively on speaking with Reich himself did not illuminate much about the composer, just giving a brief overview of his classic works. I'm not sure why director √Čric Darmon didn't bother to interview some of Reich's contemporaries, fellow performers, or any of the vast number of musicians influenced by him, although I guess I understand the appeal of just following Reich around for a while.

The truly fascinating part of the documentary was a gradual epiphany of the kind which happens in the best works of minimal music---small details accruing into a revelatory whole. In this case, though, it was not music: about halfway through the film I realized that Steve Reich owns like ten different versions of the same shirt. It was literally all he wore in the entire film.

It's this double pocketed thing which you can see here in white:
And a side-shot in dark green:
There were about 5 more of these in different shades of tan, brown, and green. Impressive stuff--and not once was he without his baseball cap. And to top it off, Reich wore one in his post-game interview with John Schaefer! It was awesome.

Here's the trailer for Phase to Face, which doesn't quite do justice to Reich's shirts, though it does have some nice footage of 2 x 5

Steve Reich, Phase to Face from SensoProjekt on Vimeo.

(Coming up next: La Monte Young's shoe collection and Terry Riley's beard)


  1. That made me laugh. The whole shirt thing is SO true. Every concert he plays at, every time he is ever seen he is always wearing one of those shirts and that darn cap. He is the coolest composer around, pretty much. I'm really looking forward to seeing this documentary - you made it seem quite awful. I do hope it's something new and different and not something that we have all heard before, like his stuff about Berio, John Coltrane, Julliard, Taxi driving to survive financially, Mills, BA in Philosophy, having an unusual taste in music, making his dentist turn romantic music off because he hates it etc etc etc TOO COOL

  2. funny observation re the shirts! i believe the cap serves as a yamulke.