This chapter traces the influence of the Western classical tradition on Steve Reich’s musical language with reference to his important work Octet, composed in 1979 then subsequently reorchestrated and renamed Eight Lines. Previous scholarly accounts of this work have focused on Reich’s use of extended melodic lines, drawing on the composer’s own comments that these were derived from his immersion at the time in Hebrew cantillation. While acknowledging Reich’s debt to Jewish music, this chapter locates Eight Lines within the broader context of the European tours with his ensemble during the early to mid-1970s. The innovative melodic lines in Eight Lines are constructed around largely goal-oriented harmonic (that is to say, “Western”) structures as much as through the composer’s own immersion in cantillation music, suggesting that his style from this point onward can be read more as a synthesis of Western and non-Western influences.


  • Steve Reich; Western classical tradition; Octet/Eight Lines; extended melodies; resulting patterns; reception history; European influence; tonal and modal regions; goal direction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRethinking Reich
EditorsSumanth Gopinath, Pwyll ap Siôn
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford: OUP
Number of pages33
Publication statusPublished - 2019
View graph of relations