Before and after Minimalism – a playlist

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 RheingoldVorspiel (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 NuitLe 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 Symphonybeginning single note sustained

Stockhausen: StimmungModel 11 (Theatre of Voices/Hillier) it parses one chord and its overtones

Reich: Music for 18 MusiciansPulses

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)]

DAF: “Der Räuber und der Prinz”

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

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.