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With his finger still firmly affixed on contemporary music's pulse, Minimalist composer Steve Reich, at age 68, creates rich, rhythmic universes of hypnotic sound. Recently hailed by the Village Voice as "America's greatest living composer," the New York-born maverick's works cover the gamut—from his early taped speeches in 1965 to his and video artist Beryl Korot's 2002 digital video opera, Three Tales.

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Powerful early experiences set conductors on career paths with unusual twists and turns. Several conductors recount how they got their start.

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