Reich’s 1985 Nonesuch debut, incorporating poem fragments from William Carlos Williams, was also his first work for large orchestra and chorus; Michael Tilson Thomas conducts. The New York Times praised its “ingenious craft, transfixing rhythmic energy, and gorgeous sound.”
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This hour-long work, commissioned by West German Radio and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, marks a transitional period for Reich. Based in the rhythmic pulse of Music for 18 Musicians, he adds a text by William Carlos Williams (sung by a full chorus), uses the more traditional sounds of a full orchestra (strings and brass are suddenly prominent), and snatches of melody dot the musical canvas here and there. The use of vocalsRead more here looks forward to such projects as Different Trains and The Cave. If Reich is trying to encapsulate the grandeur of the American west without falling back on typical "Western" tropes, he does so successfully.