When it comes to his own influences, Reich says that Bach, Debussy, Bartok and Stravinsky are the composers that he admires the most. However, Reich was also heavily influenced by Jazz musicians such as singers Ella Fitzgerald and Alfred Deller, as he was interested in the vocal techniques such as vibrato and scat singing that could change the overall sound of their voices. Like Philip Glass, Reich is vague when it comes to a detailed description of his musical style, and finds the term 'minimalist' rather restricting.
An extract from an interview by Rebecca Kim with Steve Reich in 2000:
The point is, if you went to Paris and dug up Debussy and said, 'Excusez-moi Monsieur…are you an impressionist?' he'd probably say 'Merde!' and go back to sleep. That is a legitimate concern of musicologists, music historians, and journalists, and it's a convenient way of referring to me, Riley, Glass, La Monte Young. It's become the dominant style. But, anybody who's interested in French Impressionism is interested in how different Debussy and Ravel and Satie are—and ditto for what's called minimalism. Basically, those kind of words are taken from painting and sculpture, and applied to musicians who composed at the same period as that painting and sculpture was made.
good examples of Reich as a minimalist composer, and contain all minimalist techniques, as well as sounding exotic and cathartic with his use of held pedal notes and chimes on bells. Despite the fact some criticise minimalism for its repetitive nature, I see it as the exact opposite - as it is much more fun trying to identify the subtle changes that go on that - without listening carefully - might just go over the listener's head.