The Problem of the Political in Steve Reich's Come Out

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

19 Scopus citations


This chapter gives a detailed account of the historical circumstances of the creation of Steve Reich's well-known tape piece Come Out (1966), which takes as its sole source material a declaration by a black youth (Daniel Hamm, a member of the Harlem Six) wrongly accused of murder. The civil rights struggle features as the primary backdrop to this discussion, but the chapter also draws on broader contexts relevant to the 1960s, including contemporary discourses on paranoia and on the violence wrought upon and against language. Attention is given to the problematic aspects of Reich's creation, which arise in no small part from the avant-garde compositional processes to which Hamm's voice is subjected, but the chapter closes by suggesting that the piece nonetheless contains a powerful contemporary relevance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSound Commitments
Subtitle of host publicationAvant-Garde Music and the Sixties
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199868551
ISBN (Print)9780195336641
StatePublished - May 1 2009


  • 1960s
  • Avant-garde
  • Civil rights
  • Daniel hamm
  • Harlem six
  • Steve reich
  • Tape


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