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Miles Davis and Steve Reich: Geniuses of Experiments and Creativity

Miles Davis and Steve Reich are two significant and influential figures in music history. The innovative approaches they used in their works defined the direction of music development and inspired many followers. Although their music belongs to different genres, they are connected in their constant search for a new sounding by experimenting, improvising, and having the courage to change and destroy outdated limits in art.

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The illustrative example of Davis’s experimentation in modal jazz is his album Kind of Blue (1959), considered the most influential jazz album ever. It was just the starting point for him as later Davis “shaped the course of modern improvisational music more than a half-dozen times” (“Biography – Miles Davis.”). Since Davis’s style was constantly evolving, I chose to listen to three tracks from different periods of his career. The first one is “So What” from the already mentioned Kind of Blue (1959), which seems to reflect his indifference towards existing rules or frames in art. In case he heard any criticism, he did not even need to verbalize the answer as his music responds in his stead: “So what?” Another song that I listened to is “Black Comedy” from Miles in the Sky (1968). In it, Davis took another step from classical jazz rhythms and added some rock undertones. Finally, I also listened to “Bitches Brew” from the self-titled album (1970). It seems the most controversial and weird of Davis’s works sounding both refreshing and a bit psychedelic.

To sum up my feelings about Davis’s songs, they sound very strange to me, but “strange” in a good way. I love the diversity in art and its freedom of expression, and it is amazing when an artist suggests new interpretations of an existing genre and creates their own style. In my opinion, Davis succeeded in reshaping jazz rhythms and adding his input to its development.

Reich’s music is distinctive for its regular and relaxing rhythmic patterns. In his interview with Jonathan Cott, Reich described the image he had in mind while creating “Music for 18 Musicians”. He imagined himself and the musicians playing barefoot on a beach with “the waves washing up on it” and their “irregular breathing,” which ultimately comprised the base for the composition’s rhythm (Cott). Using a heartbeat or breathing as a rhythmic pattern for music pieces might be the reason why his works resonate with so many people.

Reich’s compositions sound very invigorating and remind me of modern film soundtracks that serve as a background for the life-changing decisions of the characters. They seem to be both simple, due to their constant repetitive parts, and at the same time, very deep and multidimensional due to the perfect harmony built by different instruments. It is achieved by creating a distinctive order and structure typical of classical music. Reich’s music might be different from what is usually perceived as “classical,” yet I believe it can be regarded as such. Reich managed to combine simplicity and complex order of instrumental parts and thus, deserves to be acknowledged as a great composer.

I perceive both Davis and Reich’s music as unusual and unexpected with a unique sounding. However, jazz by its nature allows more room for variation, and Davis’s music sounds more liberal and unshackled to me. It seems to project a greater variety of thoughts and emotions in quite a quick tempo. Contrastingly, Reich’s songs seem to be more restrained, regulated, and better structured yet have additional hypnotic depth.

To conclude, despite the differences in their music styles, both Davis and Reich made a major contribution to the development of experimental music in their respective fields. Experiments for them were not just a phase in their career but rather the essence of their music. These two composers were united in their desire to embrace changes in the world and constantly evolve with it. Their works have admirers and critics, but even the latter cannot deny their talent, creativity, and dedication.

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Works Cited

“Biography – Miles Davis.” Miles Davis – Official Site, Web.

Cott, Jonathan. “Interview with Steve Reich.” The Steve Reich Website, Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2023, January 20). Miles Davis and Steve Reich: Geniuses of Experiments and Creativity. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/miles-davis-and-steve-reich-geniuses-of-experiments-and-creativity/

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StudyCorgi. "Miles Davis and Steve Reich: Geniuses of Experiments and Creativity." January 20, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/miles-davis-and-steve-reich-geniuses-of-experiments-and-creativity/.

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StudyCorgi. 2023. "Miles Davis and Steve Reich: Geniuses of Experiments and Creativity." January 20, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/miles-davis-and-steve-reich-geniuses-of-experiments-and-creativity/.

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StudyCorgi. (2023) 'Miles Davis and Steve Reich: Geniuses of Experiments and Creativity'. 20 January.

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