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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Thursday, April 29, 2021


Apple music is offering me a minimalist play list. Let's listen. I don't know much about this kind of music. I have an open mind. I am open to finding something I like as much as Reich's Drumming. I also think I am bound not to find it all very satisfying.  

 I don't get bored with Triadic Memories, by Feldman, but Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel is hard to listen to to the end, and it is only 8 minutes long, as long as single section of Feldman's work. Maybe because the Estonian is only using major triads and Feldman uses major and minor sevenths.

Glass.  String Quartet 4, movement I. Of course looking for something interesting is not really the point? At least I am interested in this, if only in my reactions. It has some of that scrub a scrub quality of some baroque music. He's interested in one or two intervals. It should have a more meditative effect but it doesn't. 

Movement 2: It's got a plaintive quality. It uses similar techniques to Movement 1, but it provokes more engagement, with an enigmatic character. This would be the adagio?  For a movie scene I would use for a guy sitting alone in an apartment in the evening in a melancholy mood, as I am doing now. I like that the movements are connected. 

Movement 3: It starts off with some resonant chords, then we here the scrub a scrubba motif. Apparently I made up this term because a search on google only give me my own blog. I'm sure though that I heard it from someone else first. I don't hate this string quartet, but I would have faint praise for it. Some of it is pretty-sounding, but not in an interesting way, with exception of movement 2. 

Hamburg by Richard Bundy. It has the same interval as the Glass piece, just the major 2nd. I've already discovered a minimalist cliché. The piece has a "new age" feel, though some saw-like sonorities would keep it out of the spa.  

More Glass.  "Tissue #7." It has an appealing romanticism to it. I can imagine a woman of 45 sipping red wine at sunset on a verandah. She is worried about something that isn't an immediate threat. 

More Pärt, arranged for solo guitar again. "Für Alina." It is a pretty piece. 

Detritus by Sarah Neufeld.  Hypnotic, repetitive rhythms, with repeated intervals. It's pleasant without being overly calming. 

1st conclusion. It goes after prettiness, not complexity (duh). It was an original style in world in which everyone wanted to reach for a complex music that people don't like very much. Minimalism can be disliked for other reasons. It does not emphasize melody, everyone's favorite musical dimension. Ir can fade into the background and its repetiveness can irritating, provoking either nervousness or a too easily achieved new age coma effect. Some of it is considerably less engaging than a Keith Jarrett free improv.  Arthur Kaassens's New York Counterpart is on right now, probably one of the more interesting pieces.  



Thomas Basbøll said...

I've always really liked Speigel im Spiegel. I get the same feeling (which I admit involves a bit of boredom and irritation) from it that I get from Glenn Gould's version of the 13th prelude of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Or the aria from his 1981 recording of the Goldberg Variations. All three seem to be teaching patience. They refuse to "grab" you. "You have to listen," they seem to say.

Thomas Basbøll said...

What a strange and beautiful typo! Speigel/Spiegel. Not only does the ei mirror the ie, it produces a vaguely Danish pronunciation of mirror (spejl).

Jonathan said...

I can understand its popularity. And, indeed, the popularity of much minimalism. Just as easily, I understand those who dislike it.

Vance Maverick said...

Caution against judging based on one selection, like a single anthology with an anonymous editor.

There's strong melodic interest in Reich's best pieces (18 Musicians), of a somewhat different sort than Irving Berlin. And the later Glass of the 8th and 9th symphonies certainly uses tunes on the scale we're used to.

Vance Maverick said...

Afterthought: one of the problems with John Luther Adams is his lack of interest in melody -- when figures break through into the foreground, they're trivial. (Listening to "Become Ocean" now, which has a more attractive sound than some of his pieces.)