Episode 109 of Sound Expertise
In light of the recent resurfacing of racist remarks that Steve Reich made in the 1970s, what are the racial politics of the composer’s canonic minimalist music? What is the history of Reich’s engagement with civil rights in works like Come Out, and does the influence of African music on his compositions represent a form of cultural appropriation? A conversation with Sumanth S Gopinath, associate professor of music theory at the University of Minnesota.
If you’re interested in learning more about Prof Gopinath’s work, check out:
- His essay “The Problem of the Political in Steve Reich’s Come Out“ in Sound Commitments: Avant-Garde Music and the Sixties [Listen to Come Out]
- His article “Reich in Blackface: Oh Dem Watermelons and Radical Minstrelsy in the 1960s” in the Journal for the Society for American Music [Watch the Oh Dem Watermelons film]
- His article “‘A Composer Looks East’: Steve Reich and Discourse on Non-Western Music”
- The volume of essays he co-edited, “Rethinking Reich” (plus an interview on the volume)
- His work on sound in new media, including his book The Ringtone Dialectic.
- His independent Americana band, The Gated Community.
(Please note one minor correction: at 50:56 of the episode, Prof Gopinath said “mid to late ’70s” when he actually meant “mid to late ’60s.”)
Sound Expertise is hosted by Will Robin (@seatedovation), and produced by D. Edward Davis (@warmsilence). Please subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and/or Spotify. Questions or comments? Email williamlrobin@ gmail
A written transcript of this episode is available here; many, many thanks to Andrew Dell’Antonio for volunteering to prepare transcripts for the show!
Stay tuned for Episode 110, coming next Tuesday, September 22: an interview with Timothy Taylor on music, commodities, and capitalism!