Period Ensemble To Perform ‘Clapping Music’ Using Steve Reich’s Original Hands

Photo credit: The Journal of Music (

NEW YORK—Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music,” one of the iconic works of minimalism, will receive its first-ever performance using the composer’s original hands, according to a press release from NYC-based period-instrument ensemble Juilliard415.

The group—primarily dedicated to faithful reproductions of 17th- and 18th-century works—will present a concert in Alice Tully Hall later this month that ventures into uncharted 20th-century repertoire, including the experimental 1972 work performed with Reich’s youthful palms.

“What people need to realize is that the twentieth century is a thing of the past,” said Juilliard Historical Performance director Robert Mealy in an interview. “As far as I’m concerned, the music of the 1900s is just as ‘historical’ as the music of the 1700s. It’s about time we start approaching it that way.”

According to the press release, two Juilliard415 members will perform the piece, each wearing a pair of Reich’s hands like gloves. Staff surgeons and bioengineers at the Juilliard School are said to have completed a complicated procedure that entailed severing and hollowing out Reich’s leathery paws and growing a genetic copy to be used by the second clapper. Meanwhile, an in-house dermatologist has used lasers to remove scars and callouses from the 78-year-old’s hands to restore the skin’s surface to its original 1972 condition.

“It will be thrilling to hear those kids play my piece as I originally conceived it,” said Reich in an interview. The double amputee, who is expected to be present at the concert, added, “When I withhold applause at the end of the performance, please nobody take it personally.”