Rehab Complete

It’s time for me to check out of the Betty Ford Center, the wing for recovering Wikipedia editors. I’m cured! I know because the

So that means Beethoven was a minimalist, too! And how about Holst’s Planets? “Mars” and “Neptune” are certainly more repetitive than any Andriessen I’ve listened to lately. So geez, music history must be filled with minimalists! Of course, the new revisions are made by a Stockhausen scholar, to whom anything with a major triad in it must sound minimalist. But over at Wikipedia, he’s the minimalism expert du jour.

The same scholar insists on a printed citation for the following sentence:

Its emphasis on accessibility, periodic rhythm, consonance, and pleasant and often even pretty sonorities drew millions of fans, especially among pop-music lovers, who had turned away from modern music, while simultaneously enraging many classical and academic musicians who saw it as a cheap throwback to a kind of mindless simplicity.

So what’s the next editor supposed to do – run around and find books in which people insult minimalism and quote those insults? Or find a book which states that “many classical and academic musicians saw minimalism as a cheap throwback to a kind of mindless simplicity”? Or delete the sentence as unverifiable? I had written the above sentence to more objectively replace several nasty, nearly illiterate comments trashing the style (none of which had ever been asked for citations). But I don’t care – it’s not my responsibility! And it’s been really good for me, because the time I might have wasted working on Wikipedia has been put into my book Music After Minimalism, which will offer clear, concise, well-documented definitions of minimalism, and its differences from postminimalism, that will stay put on the page, not alterable by anyone who chances along and decides that anything they think sounds minimalist, to them, must be minimalist.

Note to my students: No, you are not allowed to use Wikipedia as a source for class papers.


  1. says

    Kyle, I’ve been listening to a bit of Andriessen lately, and having heard him described as a minimalist over the years, was wondering how he merited that description. I suspect it might be on the basis of something like Hoketus, but many of his other works really don’t fit the mold. I suppose one could have called Rzewski minimalist for some of his earlier works like Coming Together or Les Moutons des Panurges, but if that’s the case, then perhaps we should lump La Monte Young in with the New Vienna School since his Trio for Strings is 12-tone.

    As far as Wikipedia, sorry you had a bad experience. Don’t even get me started on their entry for abortion. However, I confess to being a believer in the wiki concept, and am even trying to develop one for certain educational programs. The concept is a good one (like communism). The implementation may not be ideal, however.
    KG replies: Hey, the La Monte Young comment is classic. I’ll use that. No, I think the Wiki concept is great, but I think Wikipedia is very badly administrated. If you listed, in the first paragraph of the Minimalism article, every composer (including myself) who wrote a minimalist piece or two when he was young, that would be one hell of a long paragraph.

  2. Samuel Vriezen says

    Louis as a minimalist works like this. He liked it and he used it, but because of his socio-politico-esthetico-critical ideologies he feels uneasy about any notion of stylistic purity, so he wanted to use it the way Stravinsky “uses” classical style: as something to differ from. This is what in Dutch music life is thought to be “irony”. Of course, the purity that you find in hard-core minimalism (and related american experimental music forms) is conceptual first, traditional hardly, and that makes it not at all like the classical style, and differing from it is going to work out differently.
    Anyway, so Louis basically writes Berio x (Stravinsky + Bach) + Reich/20. It’s no surprise that in Andriessen, Europeans end up hearing mostly the surface references – which often *do* refer to certain kinds of minimalist writing – whereas Americans hear, rather, the large-scale forms and the heavy-handed argumentative aspects of it – complete with dramatic buildups, thematic contrast and harmonic forward motion – as deeply rooted in European tradition.
    But then, sometimes I think here in Europe, too many people have no real education, and they listen for surface recognition only. The Holland Festival is going on right now. There have been opera productions by Ashley and by George Benjamin. For me, the Ashley was the high point of this season, but I’ve yet to hear a Benjamin piece that doesn’t put me to sleep so to be fair, I just skipped this one. Anyway, take a guess how our newspaper critics look at these things.

  3. says

    Well, Kyle, at least it’s good to see that it doesn’t bother you at all…
    KG replies: I see your irony, but it actually doesn’t. I find it comical. And I do think that drawing attention to Wikipedia’s failures fulfills a social need, so I plan to continue.

  4. Wayne Reimer says

    So now that we’re all aware of the problems of Wikipedia, who’s going to start up and run the well-administered classical/art music alt-Wikipedia? Seems to be a need for it. Besides the usual written material, it could include scores (like IMSLP, except with better standards), sound files, composer work lists, discographies. There might even be a way to include useful volatile material, like lists of upcoming performances. Basically everything CM-related that is possible to put online should be found there, or linked to it. It could be great, and also serve as a demonstration of better wikipedic governance.

  5. mclaren says

    So now that we’re all aware of the problems of Wikipedia, who’s going to start up and run the well-administered classical/art music alt-Wikipedia?
    People just don’t seem to get it. The web isn’t the place to look for scholarship. The web isn’t about verifiable knowledge. The web is porn, online gambling, stock tip scams, and chat rooms ‘n forums full of junion high school kids screaming at each other.
    If our libraries operated like the web, you wouldn’t be able to squeeze through all the naked women f***ing on the floor, all the gurus standing on the tables shouting, “I will teach you the truth — pay me now!” and all the stock brokers who emerged from behind bookshelves and grabbed your arm and started whipsering promises in your ear about how they’ll make you a zillionaire overnight.
    The internet has a simple but surpassingly strange business model: [1] make a promise; [2] reveal it’s a lie; [3] demand money.
    Think about it. You go to a site that promises you “free software.” Delighted, you download it — turns out it’s crippleware that does nothing unless you buy the “pro version.” Then it asks you for money. So they made you a promisse, then admitted, “Yeah, we lied,” and then they added, “But pay us some money anyway.”
    That’s an interesting modus operandi, isn’t it? Suppose all our institutions worked the way the web does? Suppose you went to college and the professors laughed at you and said, “We don’t teach any courses here — it’s all a lie.” And then they presented with a great big whopping bill. Think that’d work?
    Or suppose you went into a restaurant and the waitress came up to you and smrirked, “Actually we don’t serve food.” And then she left a bill on your table for fifty bucks. Think that’d go over real big?
    But that’s the way the web operates. Make a promise, reveal it’s a lie, then demand money.
    Wikipedia is just the latest example. Make a promise: “All of human knowledge at your fingertips!” Then reveal it’s a lie: “Uh, well, the truth is, we have a certain problem with expert retention…” Then Jimbo Wales starts to suggest that Wikipedia will soon need to run ads to generate that much-needed revenue in order to “improve things.” Yes indeedy, it’s the classic internet three-step: [1] make a promise; [2] reveal it’s a lie; [3] demand money.
    Peronsally, I look forward to individual Wikipedia articles sponsored by large companies — the Dow Chemical-sponsored article on napalm (“A wonderfully useful compound which has been unjustly maligned, contrary to the picture of that Vietnames girl who actually had a severe hibachi accident”) and the Britney Spears-sponsored minimalism article (“Minimalism is not classical music because it sounds more like Britney than like Merzbow. Click here to hear her latest smash hit!”)
    The interesting thing about libraries is that they don’t make promises, they don’t lie to you, and they don’t demand money to use ’em.
    If you want to pursue knowledge, you can’t do it at home by clicking on a mouse in front of a computer screen. You have to go into a big building containing millions of books and you have to spend many months wandering through the stacks and physically pulling great big books and bound articles off the shelves and carefully reading ’em.
    Maybe this will change at some time in the distant future. We’re nowhere near that point now. The web is about video clips of dogs ridings skateboards and funny pictures of cats and websites endlessly yelping at you to pay ’em with a credit card. Knowledge resides elsewhere. I said that to the audience at the 2001 Microtonal Conference in Califonria; people giiggled and snickered. I’ve been saying it ever since. They’ve stopped giggling, and they’re started to look worried about all the students who think you can actually learn something without doing the hard cumbersome painstaking work of slogging through peer-reviewed journal articles in the library stacks and running a yellow highlighter across each of the entries in the bibliographies identifying an important reference that you still need to track down via interlibrary loan.

  6. Wayne Reimer says

    mclaren, I’m not a music professional or student, just a interested member of the general public, so my research needs are relatively simple. I also don’t have any sense of what online stuff is available other than in my location. But, anyway, as a California resident, here are some of the things I can access from home via my city library’s website: the online Grove, the OED (with constant updates not available in the physical version), all sorts of online periodical repositories, and the absolutely wonderful WorldCat, through which I can get the info needed to place interlibrary loan requests from thousands of libraries, have that info emailed to me, from which I can make the requests online right from home, and have the material delivered to the library branch nearest to where I live, just three blocks away. It’s amazing, and I’ve got copies of some pretty out-of-the-way, even rare, scores that show what can be done. I wouldn’t have even discovered that some of this music even existed without online WorldCat access from home.

    Other than the access through my local library, all sorts of other online stuff is worthwhile to me, from helpful theory sites, to composer’s webpages, to tons of webcasts, to all kinds of places from which scores can be downloaded. And of course, there are blogs like this one. So far, in all that, there have been relatively few promises not kept, and no one has demanded money of me. So my experience has been pretty good, and that’s probably why I can imagine a music-specific wiki that really could be great.

  7. Anthony Creamer says

    I was listening to an old Miles Davis record this past weekend. He played very few notes.
    Would that make Miles a Minimalist in Wiki ?
    KG replies: Anything can make you a minimalist.

  8. Danny Liss says

    According to the Wikipaedia entry on Orff’s opera Antigone, the 1949 opera “pre-dates a similar style of the minimalist school by about 50 years.” That sounds about right. In C was written in response to 9/11, after all.
    KG replies: Lovely.