Last modified 25 August 2016

SANCTUARY IN DC, National Gallery of Art
"… in the vaulting atrium – where Alexander Calder's 76-foot-long mobile famously turns – a strange and almost otherworldly ritual will start to unfold. Grouped around a bizarre-looking piece of metal called the Oracle, a quartet of percussionists will begin to play, passing fragments of sound back and forth, posing 'questions' to the Oracle and responding to its answers. And slowly, gradually, as the percussive clatter begins to cohere, intricate melodies and complex harmonies will emerge – as if song, or maybe even language itself, were first being born."

Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post, 18 November 2007

"Reynolds keeps changing his game, but his influence on music began to build in the 1960s, with a theatrical, musical rendition of Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” in which he moved sound around the stage by passing voices among eight singers. That, perhaps, is the Reynolds signature: pushing the boundaries of sound creation, later with the aid of computer processing, as he incorporated theater, text and visual images. “He’s breaking the barriers of technology and its relationship to music,” explains Harvard University composition professor Chaya Czernowin. Of course, Reynolds puts it differently: It’s using technology to realize the sounds that his mind can imagine – increasingly, these days, with the help of a few friends."
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Steven Butler, OZY.COM, an International Online News Magazine, 2015

"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 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

"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

"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. ...

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

"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