George Adams

George Adams

University of New Hampshire



Mentor: Dr. Robert Haskins, UNH Department of Music

Beat-Class Modulation in the Music of Steve Reich

Steve Reich is arguably one of the most important and popular American composers still living today. Notably, he is the inventor of a compositional technique called “phasing”. Music theorist has Richard Cohn (1992) developed a theory to describe Reich’s use of phasing called “beat-class modulation”. Several of Reich’s pieces have been analyzed with this theory in mind, but two of his pieces for large ensemble, Music for 18 Musicians (1976) and Variations for Winds, Strings, and Keyboards (1979), have not. 

Reich’s music has received relatively little serious academic attention because of its age and because of its categorization as “minimalism”. In conducting a formal analysis of each piece, with beat-class modulation as a focus, I hope to further existing beat-class theory and to bring more understanding and attention to Reich’s music from music theorists and from academia as a whole.


This project is funded through a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) grant through the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research



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