Skip to main content

“Fun, Yes, but Music?” Steve Reich and the San Francisco Bay Area's Cultural Nexus, 1962–65

  • ROSS COLE (a1)

This article traces Steve Reich through the Bay Area's cultural nexus during the period 1962–65, exploring intersections with Luciano Berio, Phil Lesh, Terry Riley, Robert Nelson, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and the San Francisco Tape Music Center. The aim is to present a revised history of this era by drawing on personal interviews with Tom Constanten, R. G. Davis, Jon Gibson, Saul Landau, Pauline Oliveros, and Ramon Sender. In addition, previously unused source materials and contemporaneous newspaper reception are employed to provide a more nuanced contextual framework. Reich's heterogeneous activities—ranging from “third stream” music and multimedia happenings to incidental scores and tape collage—deserve investigation on their own terms, rather than from within narratives concerned with the stylistic development of “minimalism.” More appropriate and viable aesthetic parallels are drawn between Reich's work for tape and Californian Funk art.

Hide All
Adlington, Robert, ed. Sound Commitments: Avant-Garde Music and the Sixties. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Albright, Thomas. Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–1980. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
Steve, Anker, Geritz, Kathy, and Seid, Steve, eds. Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.
Bass, Warren. “The Past Restructured: Bruce Conner and Others.” Journal of the University Film Association 33/2 (Spring 1981): 1522.
David W, Bernstein., ed. The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant-Garde. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
Bodien, Earl. “The Films of Robert Nelson.” Film Quarterly 20/3 (Spring 1967): 5052.
Born, Georgina. “For a Relational Musicology: Music and Interdisciplinarity, Beyond the Practice Turn.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 135/2 (November 2010): 205–43.
Peter, Braunstein and Doyle, Michael W, eds. Imagine Nation: the American Counterculture of the 1960s and '70s. New York: Routledge, 2002.
Brick, Howard. Age of Contradiction: American Thought and Culture in the 1960s. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.
Cage, John. Silence: Lectures and Writings. 1968; London: Marion Boyars, 2006.
Carl, Robert. Terry Riley's In C. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Cole, Ross. “Illusion/Anti-Illusion: The Music of Steve Reich in Context, 1965–1968.” M.Res. dissertation, University of York, 2010.
Constanten, Tom. Between Rock & Hard Places: A Musical Autobiodyssey. Eugene, OR: Hulogosi, 1992.
Nicholas, Cook and Pople, Anthony, eds. The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Cott, Jonathan. “Interview with Steve Reich.” (1996).
“Datebook.” San Francisco Chronicle, 27 February 1964, 37.
Davidson, Michael. The San Francisco Renaissance: Poetics and Community at Mid-Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Davis, Ronald G. The San Francisco Mime Troupe: The First Ten Years. Palo Alto, CA: Ramparts Press, 1975.
Davis, Ronald G. “Ecological Aesthetics.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California Davis, 2009.
De Groot, Gerard J. “The Limits of Moral Protest and Participatory Democracy: The Vietnam Day Committee.” Pacific Historical Review 64/1 (February 1995): 95119.
Dixon, Wheeler W. The Exploding Eye: A Re-visionary History of 1960s American Experimental Cinema. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.
Duckworth, William. Talking Music: Conversations with John Cage, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Five Generations of American Experimental Composers. New York: Da Capo Press, 1999.
“Editor's Notebook: Correction.” Film Quarterly 19/3 (Spring 1966): 3.
Eynon, Bret. “Community in Motion: The Free Speech Movement, Civil Rights, and the Roots of the New Left.” The Oral History Review 17/1 (Spring 1989): 3969.
Fink, Robert. Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
Ford, Phil. “Hip Sensibility in an Age of Mass Counterculture.” Jazz Perspectives 2/2 (November 2008): 121–63.
Frankenstein, Alfred. “Music Like None Other on Earth.” San Francisco Chronicle, 8 November 1964, 28.
Freed, Richard D. “Avant-Garde Gives Electronic Display.” New York Times, 28 August 1965, 12.
Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, rev. ed. New York: Bantam, 1993.
Gopinath, Sumanth. “Contraband Children: The Politics of Race and Liberation in the Music of Steve Reich 1965–1966.” Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 2005.
Gopinath, Sumanth. “Reich in Blackface: Oh Dem Watermelons and Radical Minstrelsy in the 1960s.” Journal of the Society for American Music 5/2 (May 2011): 139–93.
Graham, Bill and Greenfield, Robert. Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out. 1992; Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2004.
Gross, Jason. “Interview with Steve Reich.” (April 2000) Perfect Sound Forever Online Music Magazine.
Henrikson, Margot A. Dr. Strangelove's America: Society and Culture in the Atomic Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
Hillier, Paul. “‘Some More Lemon?’ A Conversation with Steve Reich.” Contemporary Music Review 12/2 (1995): 6575.
Isserman, Maurice and Kazin, Michael. America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s, 3rd ed.New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Jones, Arthur M.Studies in African Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959.
Kase, Carlos. “A Cinema of Anxiety: American Experimental Film in the Realm of Art (1965–75).” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, 2009.
Knickerbocker, Paine. “A Clumsy Ubu King.” San Francisco Chronicle, 13 December 1963, 49.
Kurzer, Ross T. “Interview with Tom Constanten.” (October 2002).
Lesh, Phil. Searching for the Sound: My Life With the Grateful Dead. New York: Back Bay Books, 2006.
Linden, Klaas van der. “Searching for Harmony in All the Wrong Places: Steve Reich's Music for String Orchestra (1961).” M.A. thesis, Utrecht University, 2010.
Lohner, Henning. “Steve Reich in Conversation, Stuttgart, 26.2.1986.” Interface 17/2 (1988): 115–25.
MacDonald, Scott. “We Were Bent on Having a Good Time: An Interview with Robert Nelson.” Afterimage 11/1–2 (Summer 1983): 3943.
MacDonald, Scott. A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
MacDonald, Scott. Canyon Cinema: The Life and Times of an Independent Film Distributor. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
Susan V, Mason., ed. The San Francisco Mime Troupe Reader. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.
McNally, Dennis. A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead. London: Corgi, 2003.
“Mime Troupe's Minstrel Show.” San Francisco Chronicle, 17 June 1965, 46.
“Mime Troupe to Open Original Play.” Oakland Tribune, 23 February 1964, 11.
Moritz, William and O'Neill, Beverly. “Fallout: Some Notes on the Films of Bruce Conner.” Film Quarterly 31/4 (Summer 1978): 3642.
Morgan, Ann L. The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists,
Moser, Joann. “The Continuing Adventures of William T. Wiley.” American Art 19/2 (Summer 2005): 6891.
“Music Now at Mime Theater.” San Francisco Chronicle, 21 May 1964, 45.
Nyman, Michael. “Steve Reich: An Interview with Michael Nyman.” Musical Times 112/1537 (March 1971): 229–31.
Osmond-Smith, David. “Berio, Luciano.” Grove Music Online, ed. Deane Root.
Patterson, James T. Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945–1974. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Plagens, Peter. Sunshine Muse: Art on the West Coast 1945–1970. 1974; New York: Praeger, 1999.
Potter, Keith. Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Reich, Steve. “Texture–Space–Survival.” Perspectives of New Music 26/2 (Summer 1988): 272–80.
Reich, Steve. Writings on Music, 1965–2000, ed. Hillier, Paul. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Richardson, Brenda. “Women, Wives, Film-makers: An Interview with Gunvor Nelson and Dorothy Wiley.” Film Quarterly 25/1 (Autumn 1971): 3440.
Schuller, Gunther. Musings: The Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller. 1986; New York: Da Capo Press, 1999.
Schwarz, K. Robert. Minimalists. London: Phaidon, 1996.
Sculatti, Gene and Seay, Davin. San Francisco Nights: the Psychedelic Music Trip 1965–1968. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985.
Seelye, John. “Review: Watermelon.” Film Quarterly 19/2 (Winter 1965): 54.
Selvin, Joel. San Francisco: The Musical History Tour. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996.
Shank, Theodore. Beyond the Boundaries: American Alternative Theatre. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002.
Smith, Geoff. American Originals: Interviews with 25 Contemporary Composers. London: Faber and Faber, 1994.
Smith, Tom W. “The Cuban Missile Crisis and U.S. Public Opinion.” Public Opinion Quarterly 67/2 (Summer 2003): 265–93.
Strickland, Edward. American Composers: Dialogues on Contemporary Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.
Strickland, Edward. Minimalism: Origins. 1993; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.
Taruskin, Richard. “Revising Revision.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 46/1 (April 1993): 114–38.
Tomlinson, Gary. “The Web of Culture: A Context for Musicology.” 19th-Century Music 7/3 (April 1984): 350–62.
“Ubu King Opens Tonight.” San Francisco Chronicle, 11 December 1963, 53.
Vogel, Amos. Film as a Subversive Art. 1974; London: C. T. Editions, 2005.
Wallace, Dean. “Newcomer to Tape Music.” San Francisco Chronicle, 29 January 1965, 41.
Wheeler, Daniel. Art Since Mid-Century: 1945 to the Present. London: Thames & Hudson, 1991.
Whitesell, Lloyd. “White Noise: Race and Erasure in the Cultural Avant-Garde.” American Music 19/2 (Summer 2001): 168–89.
Wolfe, Tom. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. 1971; London: Black Swan, 1989.
Zimmerman, Nadya. Counterculture Kaleidoscope: Musical and Cultural Perspectives on Late Sixties San Francisco. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
Zuckerman, Gabrielle. “An Interview with Steve Reich.” (July 2002). American Mavericks.
Coltrane, John. Africa/Brass. Impulse! AS–06, 1961.
Dylan, Bob. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Columbia CL–1986, 1963.
McGuire, Barry. Eve of Destruction. Dunhill D–5003, 1965.
Ochs, Phil. Phil Ochs in Concert. Elektra EKS–7310, 1966.
Reich, Steve. Live/Electronic Music. Columbia Masterworks MS–7265, 1968.
Reich, Steve. Steve Reich: Early Works. Elektra Nonesuch 79169–2, 1987.
Reich, Steve. Steve Reich: Works, 1965–1995. Nonesuch 79451–2, 1997.
Reich, Steve. Nonesuch 79962–2, 2006.
Riley, Terry. Music for “The Gift.” Elision Fields EF105, 2007.
Conner, Bruce. A Movie. 1958.
Conner, Bruce. Cosmic Ray. 1961.
Kitchell, Mark. Berkeley in the Sixties. 1990; Liberation Entertainment, 2007.
Kubrick, Stanley. Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. 1964; ColumbiaTristar, 2003.
Nelson, Gunvor. My Name is Oona. 1969.
Nelson, Robert. The Mystery of Amelia Airheart Solved. 1962
Nelson, Robert. Ubu King. 1963.
Nelson, Robert. Plastic Haircut. 1963.
Nelson, Robert. Oh Dem Watermelons. 1965.
Nelson, Robert. Thick Pucker. 1965.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Society for American Music
  • ISSN: 1752-1963
  • EISSN: 1752-1971
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-society-for-american-music
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed