If you had to guess what sorts of music Donald Trump listens to, “1960s downtown New York avant-gardism” would probably fall somewhere near the bottom of the list. But if Trump’s 2009 tome Think Like a Champion is to believed, he’s an admirer of the great American minimalist composer Steve Reich.
BBC points out that Think Like a Champion‘s chapter on innovation opens, incredibly, with an anecdote about Reich’s signature use of phasing rhythms in his music. It reads:
I remember reading about a composer named Steve Reich who came up with a new idea called phasing, which is like windshield wipers going in and out of synch. Apparently he was caught in a traffic jam one rainy day and the rhythm of the windshield wipers caught his attention and he applied what he heard to his musical compositions. He has had a significant influence on contemporary music, and I think he’s a great example of an innovator. Sometimes new ideas can come from something as mundane and functional as your windshield wipers. The key is to pay attention and keep your brain and senses open to new stimuli.
If you are having as hard a time believing this as I was when it was first called to my attention, feel free to check out the Google Books entry for Think Like a Champion and see it for yourself.
For the record, Trump is known to use ghost-writers, and it seems pretty likely that one of them is the Reich fan and not Trump, but who knows. Also, while windshield wipers are frequently used as an analogy to describe the way pulsing rhythms in pieces like Clapping Music and Piano Phase gradually come apart and back together, Trump is the first music historian I’ve read to claim that he was actively inspired by his car windshield. The likelier and more commonly accepted story is that Reich’s use of phasing was influenced both by the work of Terry Riley, a fellow minimalist icon with whom he closely collaborated, and by Reich’s own experiments with multiple tape loops running at slightly different speeds.
Incidentally, the first Google result for “Steve Reich Donald Trump” is this remix of the latter man’s infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” remark, done in the style of Reich’s landmark tape loop pieces Come Out and It’s Gonna Rain. Listen to it while you contemplate the very strange state of the world in 2016.