Music for 18 Musicians

An  interactive gallery concept  that puts users inside
the work of contemporary composer Steve Reich


American composer Steve Reich revolutionized the way we listen to music when he created looping compositions with clips of television, bits of precussion and even the sounds of passing trains. In this interactive gallery, Music for 18 Musicians, a piece he composed in 1973, is transformed into an experience where participants take the place of one in eighteen musical parts by standing in the instrument's corresponding area of activation.


The repetitive, trance-inducing qualities of Steve Reich's music serve as the primary inspiration behind the gallery's visual approach. Mirrored walls, floors and ceilings combine with wall-mounted light elements to create endless infinity patterns that echo the loops and repetition heard within the music.

As people stand within the areas designated for each of the eighteen musicians, they activate the corresponding instrument and can hear its music begin playing thoughout the room. To accompany the music, each instrument is represented visually on two opposite walls. On the first, the instrument's shape lights up and is reflected endlessly thanks to the mirrored surfaces. On the other, a digital display begins to show the exact measure being played so visitors can follow along with the piece as a whole.

Wall graphics printed on matte paper provide more in-depth information about Reich and his artistic contributions to music, as well as biographies for the eighteen KU music students that recorded each piece of the score.


To activate each of the eighteen instruments heard in Music for 18 Musicians, gallery visitors stand within zones designated by vinyl applications on the mirrored floor. Each instrument's location follows Steve Reich's instructions included with the score, similar to how orchestras have specific zones for each family of instruments. Upon standing on the vinyl, the guest is bathed in a pool of light and listens as their instrument begins to play. Light elements on the north and south gallery walls designate which instruments are active, plus the measure of music that is currently being played. This allows people to dissect the score piece-by-piece or gather seventeen friends and "play" the entire thing at once.

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Patrick Blanchard is a recent graduate with a BFA in Design, currently living in Lawrence, Kansas, and interning with HOK's Kansas City-based experiential graphics team. He is now seeking other full-time opportunities across the country.