Minimalism originated in the sass, as a movement that sought to stray from the previous decade of self-expressionism as well as the contemporary trends of intellectual complexities found in serial music. Marked by repetitive mitotic and rhythmic patterns, it sought to emphasize simplicity in both melodic lines and harmonic progressions. In contrast to serial music’s favored chromatic compositional techniques, minimalist music was wholly diatonic and consonant in nature. Textural consistency and layered melodies/rhythms gave way to gradual changes, highlighting the ‘process’ of music, tater than a particular musical goal or specialized form.
Seemingly lacking a climax, each composition unfolded by a series of repeating motives and additive rhythms extended over long periods of time. Influenced by Asian and African music, minimalism understated dramatic structures and sounds, instead emphasizing the reduction of musical structures. During the sass, a group of young American composers vouched for the return of basic elements of music, without dramatic structures and abstract expressionism. Many were influenced by the compositions of John Cage, including several leading gurus of the minimalist movement: Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass.
A graduate of Berkeley, Riley opposed the chromatic and twelve-tone writings of serial music. Like many of his contemporaries, Riley experimented with tape loops in his compositions and bridged the gap between the new avian-garden and the piqued interest of rock music. Riley was specifically interested in composing works for “live” audiences, as these proved more effective in conveying the so-called avian-garden sounds. Successful in its reception, this kind of experimental music appealed to the public as t grew in popularity and acceptance; his music was inclusive and non-elite.
Varying degrees of musical experience and backgrounds were encouraged. An excellent example of this can be found in his composition, In C. Written in 1964, In C did not necessarily require the skills of highly trained musicians to be performed. The piece lasts 44 minutes, although one would not suspect it to be so lengthy as it only contains fifty-three “modules” in total. Any number of instruments could play at a given time either at the original pitch or at any octave transposition. Each of the fifty-three modules were to be “looped;” in other words, they should be repeated ad labium before moving on to the next module.
Moreover, articulations and dynamics were to be performed ad labium. The work finally concluded when all of the performers had arrived at the last module. While it appears that Riley music contains a sort of “anything goes” mentality, it is quite the contrary in some respects. In choosing instruments for the actual performance, Riley suggested that all players maintain an eighth-note pulse, which was audibly heard by an instrumentalist who played the top octave of CSS, most likely plan n a piano or xylophone. Furthermore, Riley favored more homogeneous sound; thus, instruments that consisted of specific timbres and ranges were discouraged.
In C was a prime example in proving that minimalist music was not music void of regulations and rules; rather, it stemmed from “algorithms. ” Riley considered these algorithms fundamental to his music even if they appeared loose by nature. Interestingly enough, the C-pulse in Riley work was not his own idea, but instead that of another contemporary, Steve Reich. Reich was born in 1936 and his compositions were heavily influenced by non- Western traditions. He studied African drumming, which involved complex counterpoint, and Balinese gametal music, with its complex layering and fast interlocking patterns.
Quite different in background from Riley, Reich was born into wealthy and high-class family in New York. Having had traditional piano lessons growing up, an impressive education at Cornell with a major in Philosophy, and graduate studies at the Jailbird School in traditional’ composition, Reich eventually found his path in composing twentieth-century music. Upon listening to recordings of Stravinsky Rite of Spring, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, and bebop in succession, Riches developed a new musical obsession, what theorists would call, “subtractive pulse. ” It is steady, audible pulse that is practically palpable (found in, In C).
Eventually, Reich experimented “phase shifting. ” with multiple tape loops, Just as Riley did, and the idea of gradual Phase shifting is a compositional technique in which a repetitive motive is played on two instruments, in a steady but not identical tempo. Eventually, the instruments ‘shift’ out of unison and the musical result resembles a ringing or echo effect, but ultimately, returns to unison. The gradual ‘shifting’ is initially subtle, due to the fact that the beginning Tempe are virtually identical, but over time, the differences in Tempe increase and become much more apparent.
In some live performances, the gradual phase shifting is entirely too subtle, thus forcing the performer to either add or remove a note, resulting in a shift by a single beat. Piano Phase was Riches first attempt at gradual phase shifting in a live performance. Later, Reich experimented with more immediate and less gradual changes in his Clapping Music. Philip Glass, also influenced by African and Indonesian music, collaborated with Reich for many performances, as they both sought to ‘minimalism’ the compositional techniques of Western music, counterpoint, and part-writing.
Maintaining commonality in elements of limited range of pitch and accentuation on constant melodic and rhythmic repetitions, Glass’s music initially resembled Riches in many ways; however, his compositional techniques differed somewhat towards his latter years. While Reich used melodic and rhythmic repetition to gradually transform his music, Glass utilized “additive Hitachi” processes, a technique that augmented small melodic units over the course of the piece. This was distinctively different from Riches ‘phasing’ strategies.
For instance, in Glass’s Music in Fifths, the original eight-note motive is expanded by the addition of several notes and subsequently grows to two hundred notes. Similar to Reich, Glass’s compositional style began simpler, but eventually evolved into slightly more complex minimalist techniques. At first, his choice of textures were limited to unison and octave doubling, as evidenced in Music in Fifths but later, he rated more complex textures in choral voices found in his Music in Similar Motion.
His more recent music has evolved using simple harmonic progressions of a traditional style, but still adheres to the idea of reduction and perpetual repetition. During the sass, Glass began scripting works for the stage, including several operas: Einstein on the Beach (1975), Straight (1980), and Keenan (1983). At this time, skepticism surrounded the existence of opera in modern times. Nonetheless, Glass’s operas were tremendously significant in re-igniting enthusiasm for this genre. Of course, anthropometry opera contrasted greatly to those of Western traditions, as it consisted of non-narratives and musical theatre settings.
Glass often performed in his own ensemble, the Phillip Glass Ensemble, mainly consisting of amplified woodwinds, keyboard synthesizers, and solo vocals. Minimalist music revolutionized the way listeners heard music during the twentieth-century. Due to its simplistic sonorities, repeating rhythms and melodies, minimalist music could often be heard as a type of trance’ music. Its pulse unwavering, audible, and undeniably transparent, the listener is brought into an almost ‘hypnotic’ Tate of mind. This sort of listening results in a somewhat passive participation, rather than active aural and emotional involvement.
Undoubtedly, minimalist music has an almost static quality to its sound, with its pulsating rhythms and steady tempos. Oriel’s fascination with subtractive pulses, catapulted the interest of avian-garden music amongst amateur and professional musicians alike. A pioneer in the minimalism movement, Philip Glass certainly understood the intent of this music to its listeners. To fully grasp his compositional works, he required the audience to hear music as a ‘presence,’ free room any sort of structural expectation or dramatic form.
It was often heard as anti- climatic, and worked best for dramatic actions on stage or on screen. Common among the composers of this period was the ideology of ‘less is more. ‘ Reduction and striping of the ‘old’ styles were accentuated in performances, and listeners were subject to a new kind of musical experience compared to previous centuries past. Taking advantage of current technologies including records, broadcasts, and electronic instruments, Riley, Reich, and Glass incorporated these technological advances into their music.
Typically, electronic instruments and pitches were utilized in minimalist music, as these particular sounds highlighted the monotony and reiteration of melodic and rhythmic ‘cells. ‘ Prior to the twentieth-century, instruments were played and heard by way of inflection and nuance, whereas minimalist music omitted any sort of variance in expressive sound. Academic surrealist composers often dismissed the work of the non-academic avian-garden minimalists, but to the minimalist composer, music could be void of numbers and musical ‘maps. ‘ Past Western traditions were based on rules and structures, cost of which minimalist composers rejected.
The ideology that music should stem from reduced musical elements, and that their growth should be gradual and rather organic, pinned this musical genre as experimental and innovative. Transformation was marked by gradual processes and superfluous elements were disregarded and deemed unnecessary. The “process” of development was more important than the end result, much like the idea that Joy and self-evolution is found in the Journey and not Just in achieving it. Minimalism opposed the conservative or nostalgic and sought no return to older styles.