This is a list of 20 compositions with a basic minimalist dimension, written before and after Minimalism became a major musical trend. It is not a list of greats or favorites. It is meant to generate reflection on this compositional technique, and especially the kind of listening as ascesis of the self that it assumes and advances. What is the listener position it creates? What kind of aural aura authorizes its truth claims? What is repeated and what differs from the repeated? Is there a critical difference in dogmatic repetition?
These questions are part of an on-going conversation with Dr. Pantelis Polychronidis, my “other self,” who has serious reservations about the Minimalist trend, like nearly all classically trained musicians. Since this entire blog is about listening to music with a friend, this list also raises the question of the historical present co-inhabited when presence sounds static and time suspended.
Pachelbel: “Canon” (Hesperian XXI/Savall) harmonically repetitive
Purcell: “Fantasia Upon One Note” (Savall) a tone sustained through the entire work
Chopin: “Berceuse” (Michelangeli) obsessive left-hand ostinato
Wagner: Das Rheingold – Vorspiel (Vienna Phil/Solti) rumbling E flat chord
Mosolov: Iron Foundry (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Kalitzke) mechanical patterns
Debussy: Préludes 1 – “Voiles“ (Richter) static whole-tone harmony
Ravel: Gaspard de La Nuit – “Le Gibet“ (Simon) tolling B flats
Satie: Vexations a pattern of thirteen neutral, slow, and static chords with a preamble note
Domselaer: Proeven van Stijlkunst [Experiments in Artistic Style] (Wieringa) inspired by Mondrian’s patterns
McPhee: Tabuh-tabuhan:Toccata for Orchestra and Two Pianos, I.Ostinatos (Burley & BBC Symphony Orchestra/Slatkin) inspired by Balinese patterns
Cage: Sonata V (from Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano) (Ferreira)
Nancarrow: Study for Player Piano No. 21 (Canon X)
Klein: Monotone and Silence Symphony – beginning single note sustained
Stockhausen: Stimmung – Model 11 (Theatre of Voices/Hillier) it parses one chord and its overtones
Reich: Music for 18 Musicians – Pulses
Feldman: String Quartet No. 2 – I, Pages 1–4 (Flux Quartet)
Carter: 8 Etudes and a Fantasy – No. 3. Adagio possibile (Sierra Wind Quintet) one-note section
Part: Spiegel im Spiegel (Little & Roscoe) tintinnabuli style
Tavener: “In Memory of Two Cats” (van Raat)
[in lieu of Distler’s selection Pratirupa (version for piano and string orchestra)]
The above list includes the 10 composers in Jed Distler’s Minimalist playlist, published in Gramophone, August 2016, p. 111, and an additional 10 composers of my own choice. Most of the pieces and almost all the YouTube clips are very short.
August 28, 2016