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The Recording Business

from Thursday, May14th of the year2009.

So, Newsweek? They published an interview with Steve Reich a few weeks ago, which is pretty interesting. The complete text is here, and in it, there is a curious exchange that has been bugging me a little bit:

Q: I missed the premiere of “Double Sextet” last year, and when I heard it had won, I found myself upset that there was no way to buy the piece yet.

A: Yeah, that’s just part of the recording business. When you have a 24-minute piece, the official recording hinges on finishing and recording two other pieces to go with it [on a CD]. I’m working on two other pieces right now, and have to finish writing the second one, actually. I’ve got a piece for all rock-and-roll people already completed, and it’s going to premiere later this year.

It’s too bad, because Reich is so forward-looking, and yet, here, it’s like, oh, sorry, you can’t have the music because of “the recording business.” The trick, obviously, is to make the recording business your employee rather than the other way around; I wonder who benefits by making us wait until 2011 to hear the official recording of Double Sextet?


  • Especially now, when CDs don’t matter nearly as much as downloads. It could have been sold as a download exclusively on iTunes & etc., and have made a small mint (I mean, it’s Reich!), and eventually join a couple other pieces on a real CD later.

  • legrosmonsieur
    May 14th, 2009 at 8:38 am

    It’s been a while i wanted to tell you/us to listen :
    Murcof – The Versailles Sessions
    link for “previews” :

    what you did in Paris ( Triade – Benjamin Millepied ) was fantastic.



  • “All rock-and-roll people.”

  • It’s terrible too that the only place I can find to stream it online (the Carnegie commissions site) plays under two minutes of it and then restarts.

  • Graham Anderson
    May 14th, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I’m curious about some of your own pieces Mr Muhly – are you planning on putting some of the stuff that is currently only available as MP3s on MySpace or here on iTunes or Amazon? I love the recording of Senex Puerum Portabat you put up, plus things like Bright Mass with Canons is not available on CD. Add in live performances and there is quite a collection of material that crazy collector completists like me would buy. I noticed at the Union Chapel gig there were official photographers and videographers recording the concert – are there plans to release the video online for free or purchase?

    Additionally, online distribution gives artists the option to release crazy hi-def recordings should they so choose. Linn Records are selling all their stuff as CD, MP3, CD-quality WMA or 5.1 Studio Master FLAC

    David Sylvian’s Samadhi Sound label is also selling FLAC downloads

  • Or come to the Ojai Festival (five minutes walk from my house, as it happens) in Ojai, CA in June and hear it live with eighth blackbird. Yay!!

  • The usual rationale for the delay would be publicity, right? You need a standard 3-month lead time on a recording to get the maximum amount of national press for it, and if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. Better to dedicate all that time and money towards a full CD.

    But to your point, it already won the friggin’ Pulitzer. It’s gotten all the national publicity you could ever dream of for a new recording. Get 8bb in the studio, cut it, print it, and ship it! 😉

  • A 73 year old man who has waited half a century to receive a Pulitzer Prize is probably not operating in the same time frame as all the people eager to listen to his music.

  • I agree that Double Sextet should have been released on iTunes. In fact, I also think it would have made more money in the direct wake of the Pulitzer announcement than it will being released later, when the hype has somewhat subsided. Granted, it will be very nice to see it released along with other new Reich pieces. But if Double Sextet was released both now by itself, and also later with the other pieces, I think many people (myself included) would have bought both.

  • One thing I’ve always wished is that we could find out from record companies about upcoming projects; I mean, who knew that Nonesuch (presumably?) was recording this? Anyways, here’s looking forward to hearing it.

    And what in the world is this ‘rock-and-roll’ piece? 🙂

  • Finer Ropes Nanny
    May 16th, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Somebody introduce the man iTunes

  • Hey Graham Anderson, and others here that are interested; you can download Nico’s albums in every possible digital format right here: Hopefully we will be able to offer individual pieces, live recordings and other rare material there as well someday.

  • Newsweek’s mini-profile of you is up:

  • You can listen to it here:

    I think it’s the whole piece.

  • The odd thing is that Reich is recording with Nonesuch, which has a history of releasing short CDs of important new works without any filler. Take Lieberman’s last song cycle for his wife with Levine/BSO, or Adams’ 9/11 piece with the NY Philharmonic. Both were released by Nonesuch on short-playing CDs…. So this sounds like nonsense.

  • Oops, that’s Lieberson….