Comme il suffit d'une petite pensée pour remplir toute une vie.
"How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life."
Proverb. Wittgenstein. Reich.
Proverb is a musical composition by Steve Reich for three sopranos, two tenors, two vibraphones, and two electric organs. It is set to a text by Ludwig Wittgenstein. It was written in 1995 and was originally intended for The Proms and the Utrecht Early Music Festival. It was premiered at Alice Tully Hall in New York City on February 10, 1996 by Theatre of Voices with Paul Hillier, to whom the piece is dedicated.
Proverb was written during a period when Reich was experimenting with "speech melody", and is influenced by the period Reich spent working on The Cave with Paul Hillier and singers with a strong background in medieval polyphony. This is especially apparent in the two tenor parts, which pay homage to Pérotin and organum in their use of rhythmic modes and pedal points. The text is: "How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life!" This text is an excellent explanation of the piece itself, as well as perhaps Reich's career, much of it spent exploring minimalism.