Running with Steve Reich II

A few days ago I wrote about running with Steve Reich’s minimalist music on my iPod.

The American composer wrote back. He said,

“Tell Brenda I read her blog and am glad she runs to my music. That's a good use for it. She also points out how classical music doesn't keep a steady beat and is no good for running. Well, tell her that's true for Brahms, Mahler and many other romantic composers of the 19th century, but she should give J.S. Bach a shot. Something as easy to find as the Brandenburg Concertos. He - if correctly played - certainly keeps a steady beat and would seem like a natural joy to run to.

All the best,

* * * * *

Dear Steve,

Thank you for reading my blog. I was more than delighted to get your response.

You might be interested to know that on Thanksgiving Day I put your music to another test. I ran a 10K race with it.

I don’t know where you are spending the holidays, but the weather in Western New York was not encouraging. We awoke to a cold, steady rain that turned to snow. It was 37 degrees at daybreak. A driving wind whipped in from the north.

Before the race started, I looked around to see how many others were running with iPods - perhaps loaded up with “Tehillium.” A young, dark-haired woman standing next to me clutched a red nano. I asked her what she was going to run with, and she stepped away with a slightly suspicious look as though I’d just asked her about the color of her sports bra.

“I have a couple of playlists,” she said evasively.

“Who’s on them?” I persisted (hoping she’d say, “Steve Reich.”)

“Mostly K. T. Tunstall,” she replied.

I felt she was a kindred spirit, since I had a great song by Tunstall on my own playlist:

Running Back to You - Vanessa Williams
The Way I Are - Timbaland
Feel Brand New - Seduction
Crazy - Prince
Clocks - Coldplay
Tehillim I: Psalms 19:2-5 - Steve Reich
Tehillim II: Psalms 34:13-15 - Steve Reich
Tehillim IV: Psalms 150:4-6 - Steve Reich
Deeper And Deeper - Madonna
Someone to Call My Lover - Janet Jackson
Black Horse and Cherry Tree - K.T. Tunstall
Tehillim III: Psalms 18:26-27 - Steve Reich

Steve, I hope you’re ok with being wedged in between Coldplay and Madonna.

I also want to apologize for sending your third movement to the back of the line, but it’s too quiet and contemplative to mask the sound of my heavy breathing. Besides, hearing it was going to be big reward for crossing the finish line. It was the most beautiful cool-down I could think of.

Anyway, the race started, and around mile 3, just as I was starting to experience dark thoughts concerning the weather, all of humanity, and my left knee, Coldplay kicked up with the minimalist “Clocks.”

Then, as I was passing a wet field of cattails, your music came on. The space and light in it snapped me out of my dark trance. I found it more intellectually stimulating than the other stuff, the Prince, Timbaland, and Vanessa Williams.

It was joyous.

I heard the end of Tehillim IV just as I was finishing up mile 5. After the maracas and final Hallelujahs, I couldn’t face Madonna or Ms. Tunstall, so I ripped the buds out of my ears and left your rhythms in my head, a kind of residual happiness to carry me through to the end.

Thanks for writing such buoyant, life-giving music. It’s in my bloodstream.

I remain your sincere and devoted fan,

Brenda Tremblay



iPods banned for runners

iPod issues

Thanks for forwarding the NY Times article. I hadn't seen that one, but I'd heard that some races were banning iPods. I'm a little conflicted about my own use, and I don't always run with mine. There's the safety issue (I might get run over by a bus or grabbed by a mugger) and there's the hearing loss issue. Since I started using ear buds in 2006, I think my sensitivity to sound has weakened a little. But that's hard to track: I haven't ever had my hearing checked, and there are other factors that might be affecting it such as being on the radio, using head phones, and hearing loud music blasted on big speakers where I work out.

Like a smoker, I can make up all kinds of excuses. iPod gives me energy . . . iPod makes me feel less lonely and sad . . . iPod is my friend. Sounds pathetic, I know. Maybe you should try it.