Monday, November 21, 2011


  • An original American  genre of experimental or "Downtown music" named in the 1960's. It demonstrates a tendency towards a simple and more direct music
  • Minimalism is based mostly in consonant harmony, steady pulse, static tonal structures, additive rhythms, and slow transformation
  • Typically it is characterized by constant thematic repetition and reiteration of musical phrases

In C ~ Terry Riley 
  • semi-aleatory work
  • "a group of 35 is desired if possible but smaller or larger groups will work"
  • Response to the academic abstract serialist techniques used by composers in the mid-twentieth century
  • consists of 53 short, numbered musical phrases, lasting from half a beat to 32 beats
  • Each phrase may be repeated an arbitrary number of times
  • players are encouraged to play the phrases starting at different times, even if they are playing the same phrase
  • The performance directions state that the musical ensemble should try to stay within two to three phrases of each other
  • the Phrases must be played in order, although some may be skipped
  • It is customary for one musician "traditionally a beautiful girl" to play the note c in octaves in repeated eighth notes. This is referred to as the "pulse"

  • all voices amplified
  • vibraphone is the conductor
  • violin, cello, 4 voices, 4 pianos, 5 marimbas, 3 zylaphones, metallophone, clarinets/ 2 bass clarinets, 2 maracas
  • Rhythmically: two basic times are occurring simultaneously: a regularly rhythmic pulse in the piano and mallet instruments that continues  throughout the piece; the rhythm of the human voice on vocals and winds
  • "The combination of one breath after another gradually washing up like waves against the constant rhythm of the pianos and mallet instruments is something I have not heard before and would like to investigate further"
  • structure: cycle of 11  chords played at the very beginning of the piece and repeated at the end
Phrygian Gates ~ John Adams
  • The Gates in the title is an allusion from the electronic music gates, a term from rapidly shifting modes
  • The work is written in a minimalist style and based on a repetitive cell structure but Adams decisively moves away from the conventional techniques of minimalism
  • The work is set in the phrygian mode and cycles through half the keys, modulating in the circle of 5ths
  • there is a constant shifting between modules in Phrygian mode and lydian mode
  • Adams explained that working with synthesizers caused a "diatonic conversion" - a reversion to the belief that tonality is a force of nature

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