One of the first generation of Minimalist masters, Reich studied drumming with Roland Kohloff, principal timpanist of the New York Philharmonic, and later composition at Juilliard and Mills College. He helped put together the premiere of Terry Riley’s In C in 1964, and a few months later completed It’s Gonna Rain, his seminal tape piece of looped speech fragments. His other influences ranged from John Coltrane to Ghanaian drumming and Balinese gamelan music, resulting in lively, pulse-oriented music of great color. The scope of his music ranges from the sound of clapping hands to full-length multimedia theater pieces.
Vermont Counterpoint was composed in 1982 for flutist Ransom Wilson, initiating a series of pieces for live performers playing against taped performances (including New York Counterpoint for clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and Electric Counterpoint for guitarist Pat Metheny). The tape part has ten parts, to which the live performer adds an eleventh, playing alto flute and piccolo as well as the standard flute. “The compositional techniques used are primarily building up canons between short repeating melodic patterns by substituting notes for rests and then playing melodies that result from their combination,” Reich writes. “These resulting melodies or melodic patterns then become the basis for the following section as the other surrounding parts in the contrapuntal web fade out.”