Last modified 28 February 2013
"One can say that, just as Elliott Carter came from neoclassicism and became Europeanized, Reynolds became Europeanized from the direction of experimentalism, perhaps especially after his residencies at Ircam (Pierre Boulez's electronic music institute in Paris) in 1981-1982. ... It is a telling detail of Reynolds's career that he became, in 1989, the first composer since Ives from an experimentalist background to win the normally conservative Pulitzer Prize for music."
Kyle Gann, American Music in the Twentieth Century, Schirmer Books, 1998
ABOUT Reynolds's new book, FORM AND METHOD: Composing Music:
"Reynolds writes fluently and persuasively in Part I's essays, setting up some useful conceptual distinctions for composing music in general. His discussion is informed by collaborations with cognitive psychologists, such as his editor, Stephen McAdams. However, the meat of the book is in the examples and in the discussion of the examples in the essays.
The examples strikingly reveal how thoroughly Reynolds plans the overall compositions. There is a high level of 'pre-compositional' planning and structuring, in most cases including a durational plan for subsections based on geometric series, chaos theory, or some other mathematical principle (one is reminded on John Cage!). ...
Note how specific, clear, and useful [his discussion] is, at a detailed level, either for understanding [a work such as the string quartet] Ariadne's Thread, or for extrapolating some related practice for one's own future composition. ... Any composer open to understanding the practice of another composer will want to see this frank, clear, and detailed exposition by Roger Reynolds of the ways in which he has worked over the past twenty years or so. composition students (young or old) will find this especially useful. A complete bibliography and discography also make this a valuable reference work on Reynolds the composer."
John Rahn, Perspectives of New Music, Winter 2002
ABOUT the 2-CD set by the ARDITTI QUARTET on Montaigne:
"Reynolds projects a particular sort of American artistic idealism: His music has connections to both the 'transcendentalist' tone and imagery of such composers as Cowell, Varèse, and Ruggles, and also has roots in more recent experimentalist movements: While a student at Michigan, he was a part of the legendary ONCE group ...
The composer always anchors his music at any given moment on a note or collection of pitches, which becomes a sort of axis the ear relates to (one hears this very clearly in the 11th piece of Kokoro; there a recurrent tremolo chord in the violin performs this function). In fact, the notes always make sense to me, precisely because of the "gravity" that these harmonic fields exert.
Formally, the works tend to be a collection of precious moments, often miniature in size, strung together jewel-like to make larger structures (this emphasis on the moment seems an aspect of Japanese aesthetic influence upon Reynolds). The composer has certain processes embedded in the music to give it continuity, and, in turn, groups of these short movements coalesce to form larger formal entities.
The solo-cello piece [focus a beam, emptied of thinking, outward ...] is particularly elegant, and uses the least 'extended effects' of any piece in the collection, so that every pitch counts as a pitch (and de Saram plays with an effortlessness that is perfectly suited to it). Ariadne's Thread is remarkable for its blend of the instruments with the computer generated sound. In addition, it features some of the most strikingly aggressive and ugly electroacoustic sounds I've ever heard (except for Xenakis!), but that is not negative, as they are terrifying in their impact, and as such memorable. ... I find the opening of Ariadne's Thread truly beautiful in its gradual unfolding line, and was sad to see its composure disrupted -- at the same time, the dramatic richness of the narrative that follows seems to justify the rupture.
... I have found this music increasingly rewarding over repeated listenings. It has personality, expressive power, and a deeply questing nature."
Robert Carl, Fanfare, January/February 2001
"For over 40 years Roger Reynolds has produced an extraordinary body of original, thought-provoking, and inspiring compositions. From such stunning early works as Quick Are the Mouths of Earth [1964-65] through such recent music-theater projects as Odyssey [1989-93], and JUSTICE , Mr. Reynolds has steadily emerged as one of the central figures of that rich mosaic which constitutes our contemporary music world. Throughout his career, he has exhibited unbounded enthusiasm for sonic exploration. As such, he has embraced a great many of the most important musical developments of the 20th century and integrated these into a wholly new conception of artistic expression.
... this composer seems to favor the kind of unity that comes from an unequivocal acceptance of the world's inherent and, indeed, essential contradictions. Rather than embrace just one medium, one compositional method, or one cultural tradition -- one creative stance -- Mr. Reynolds seems to be motivated by an extraordinary passion to embrace human experience in all its richness and diversity.
In his book A Poetics Charles Bernstein once noted that form is 'how any one of us interprets what's swirling so often incomprehensibly about us..." The complex sonic evolutions that constitute each of Mr. Reynolds' compositions beautifully and eloquently articulate this conception of form.
Mr. Reynolds' music also helps us to understand that we each impose a unique sense of coherence on the world as we perceive it, and , moreover, that the framework of our perceptions determines the extend and limits of our ability to fashion any sense of order out of all that we perceive. John Cage achieved a somewhat similar goal by repeatedly bringing us face to face with the world as unformed matter. Mr. Reynolds, in contrast, does so by constructing musical forms which render sonic matter in a constant state of regeneration. The triumph of his music, as I see it, lies in the way it shows us that the very framework of our perceptions is itself in a constant state of regeneration. Every one of his compositions reveals this is a new and startling way. No other composer active today has done so quite as brilliantly. ...
In every respect this is an exceptional CD set. It offers an extraordinary collection of works by one of America's greatest composers, all performed with technical finesse, insight, and sensitivity both to form and detail."
Thomas DeLio, The Computer Music Journal, Summer 2002
"Reynolds's [Ariadne's Thread] proved the most aurally exciting of the evening. An incessant, insistent darkness throbs through the heart of the work capturing the neurotic and sublimated sexuality of the Ariadne myth in a strikingly original way. The result was a truly astonishing musical voyage."
Paul Cutts, The Strad [London], February 1997
"...[the sound effect] which started like amplified knitting needles [in The Red Act Arias], turned into the demolition of a building and ended as a fly-past by Concorde, was mightily impressive."
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 6 August 1997
"Of all American composers now active on the scene, none possesses a voice more distinctive or sense of purpose better defined than does Roger Reynolds... [His] rhythmically fluid manipulations of wondrous textures more than meet a mere sybarite's needs."
Mike Silverton, Fanfare, November/December 1996
"While the works of many composers have focused on and explored the potential of a single technique, Roger Reynolds has created a body of work that encompasses nearly every major musical development in the 20th century.
As well as incorporating new techniques into his music, Reynolds is responsible for initiating many of the new developments. The theater piece The Emperor of Ice Cream, for instance, became the model for a new genre, and its influence is evident in the numerous imitations it spawned."
Ciro G. Scotto, Contemporary Composers, St. James Press, Chicago/London, 1992
"Roger Reynolds is a composer who has remained strongly committed to the experimental spirit...Symphony[Myths] gave no specific message to the listener, rather one had to use one's imagination. The music, which accumulates an increasing level of activity throughout, makes a listener feel as though he is experiencing the same complicated, multidimensional object from three perspectives in turn. The process is filled with the joy of discovery."
Akimichi Takeda, The Mainichi Shinbun, 6 November 1990
"Reynolds is at once an explorer and a visionary composer, whose works can lead listeners to follow him into new regions of emotion and imagination."
Andrew Porter, The New Yorker, 9 July 1984
"Reynolds is one of the pioneering composers of his generation, with provocative, expressive work. One can be sure that he will continue to produce interesting works, explore the bounds of human perception, and inspire younger generations of composers."
Ciro G. Scotto, Contemporary Composers, St. James Press, Chicago/London, 1992