Come Out (Reich)

Come Out (Reich)

Come Out is a 1966 piece by American composer Steve Reich. He was asked to write this piece to be performed at a benefit for the retrial of the Harlem Six, six black youths arrested for committing a murder during the Harlem Riot of 1964 for which only one of the six was responsible. Truman Nelson, a civil rights activist and the person who had asked Reich to compose the piece, gave him a collection of tapes with recorded voices to use as source material. Nelson, who chose Reich on the basis of his earlier work It's Gonna Rain, agreed to give him creative freedom for the project.



Reich eventually used the voice of Daniel Hamm, one of the boys involved in the riots but not responsible for the murder; he was nineteen at the time of the recording. At the beginning of the piece, he says, "I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them" (alluding to how Hamm had punctured a bruise on his own body to convince police that he had been beaten). The police had not previously wanted to deal with Hamm's injuries, since he did not appear seriously wounded. It is probably the earliest instance of which a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths was recorded.

Reich re-recorded the fragment "come out to show them" on two channels, which initially play in unison. They quickly slip out of sync to produce a phase shifting effect, characteristic of Reich's early works. Gradually, the discrepancy widens and becomes a reverberation and, later, almost a canon. The two voices then split into four, looped continuously, then eight, until the actual words are unintelligible. The listener is left with only the rhythmic and tonal patterns of the spoken words. Reich says in the liner notes of his album Early Works of using recorded speech as source material that "by not altering its pitch or timbre, one keeps the original emotional power that speech has while intensifying its melody and meaning through repetition and rhythm." The piece is a prime example of process music.

In dance, this piece has been used in 1982 by the Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as part of one of her seminal works entitled Fase, which has become a cornerstone of contemporary dance.

References in other recordings

  • Captain Beefheart's song "Moonlight On Vermont," from Trout Mask Replica (1969) includes the phrase "come out to show them" repeated several times. (Mark Saucier's song notes cite a different meaning for "come out")
  • The quotation from Come Out is sampled at the beginning of the Madvillain song "America's Most Blunted".
  • It also appears on the Unkle "Bruise Blood" remix of Tortoise's song "Djed."
  • Camper Van Beethoven perform a "cover version" of Come Out on their 2004 album New Roman Times [1].
  • The quotation again appears at the beginning of the Maximillian Colby song "New Jello".
  • A sample from the quotation is repeatedly looped on the D*Note track D*Votion.
  • The track "Time becomes" from the second album by Orbital uses the same phased looping effect.


  1. Blom, Eric, ed. Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 5th edition, hardcover ed. 10 vols. St. Martin's Press, 1954.
  2. Griffiths, Paul. "Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians" Grove Music Online: the World's Premier Authority on All Aspects of Music. Ed. L Macy. Oxford Univ. Pr. 7 Nov. 2005 <>.
  3. Steve Reich Interview -Gabrielle Zuckerman, July 2002
  4. Bomb Magazine: Steve Reich and Beryl Korot, by Julia Wolfe


  1. ^ Camper Van Beethoven hooks up with fans St. Petersburg Times, 20 January 2005

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