1. very interesting point you make at the end, there, K. Are there really no composition departments yet with (post-)minimalist composers?
    He, and welcome to Belgium in 2011!
    KG replies: Well, there might be some, but they’re not taking an interest in the minimalism conference. See comment below.

  2. Thanks very much for the reports Kyle – great to be able to follow the conference through your eyes.
    I wanted to comment that I think it is short sighted to maintain that minimalism is unwelcome in university composition programs and that the only solution is to study musicology. First of all, sincere study of musicology will require a great deal of time doing things other than composing, which I think is not a healthy path for someone who wishes to primarily be a creator. Surely that is that path towards being an “academic composer”.
    What about Yale, Princeton, CalArts, Michigan (I could go on but these are some of the best ones). I would argue that modernist composers are unlikely to be found there, and those who wish to pursue some form of minimalism would be quite welcome, if their accomplishments rise to the level that would encourage Bresnick/Lansky/Daugherty etc. to admit them.
    I mean no disrespect to UMKC (I admire their program!) or to the profession of musicology. But I think a gifted minimalist who wishes to pursue an advanced degree has far more choices available then you claim.
    Thank you again for your wonderful blog.
    KG replies: I know that’s true of a couple of places you mention, but none of them sent anyone to the conference. I only speak for those who were there and involved. I’m trying to get a kid into Yale now. But the point is not so much where they can study as where they can get a job afterwards. All these dozens of minimalist composers can’t count on getting jobs at the five or six schools that are sympathetic. After all, I haven’t. I didn’t invent this thing about composers getting musicology degrees, I’m just telling you what I see. This “unhealthy path” you describe of being a musicologist and composer is, after all, my life.

  3. I have to say, the highlight of the conference was definitely when Charlemagne locked eyes with me and proclaimed “I AM THE FIREBIRD.”

  4. This sounds like a wonderful conference. Are there plans to publish the papers and/or to broadcast the concert recordings (optimistically hoping there are some)?
    KG replies: As I keep saying, I’ll alert you to every recording and paper we can make public, and we’re trying to do as much as we can.

  5. “The best minimalist music does not inspire cautious appraisal or cold analysis, but wide-eyed wonder.”
    Right. On.
    Wish I could have been there. Maybe next year.

  6. I too am confused by the sentiment about “the grip of modernism’s stranglehold on American academic composition departments.” My feeling has always been in the other direction; that the dominant trend in musical faculty hiring was towards Post-Minimalists. Maybe the issue here is the definitions of Modernism or Post-Minimalism. If Modernism is everything “other” than Post-Minimalism then it would make sense that most institutions would have faculty whose music is aligned with Modernism. But who represents the points along a spectrum of modernism? Cage, Kagel, Boulez, Stockhausen, Babbit, Lachenmann, Sciarrino? If those are valid examples, the range of possible composition methods is vast. And who represents the range of possibilities for Post-minimalism? Is it as diverse as that? My experience and understanding of these two “genres” is that one includes many names and styles and the other is a more specific style. And, at no institution with which I have been involved, has post-minimalism been “shouted down.”
    Perhaps a more important question is, wouldn’t getting “shouted down” by “stodgy” institutions be a goal of innovative music making? I understand that the academic institution is the safe space for contemporary music making in America and so an inclusive atmosphere where every “ism” is accepted is ideal. However, I don’t see minimalism as excluded and, furthermore, I see it thriving outside the institution. Just within my circle of awareness, I see SO Percussion, Matt McBane (Build), Bang on a Can, Real Quiet, and numerous other groups doing incredible work without the institution as their primary venue or resource.
    Perhaps none of these groups or individuals likes the label of Post-minimalism. That’s another feature of academic inclusion, though. Categorization, genre-labeling, and divisive campiness.
    As far as getting jobs goes, I would be very interested to see real statistics about the number of jobs going to modernists over minimalists.
    Anyway, I look forward to hearing about the Belgian edition of this conference in 2011. Congrats to all for the hard work that went into this!
    KG replies: You’re attempting to refute a large array of general assertions that I didn’t make. Of course postminimalist music has support outside academia – no one said it doesn’t. One of the perception problems is that people – like you, apparently – think that minimalism and postminimalism cover only a handful of composers and a small stylistic range. It is, indeed, as vast as the range represented by the composers you list. The point is that many composers, especially those associated with academia, harbor a special hatred for minimalism, and many of us can attest to this. A few years ago when I wrote a history of minimalism for New Music Box, the site was so deluged with hate mail from composers that Frank Oteri made a public plea for tolerance and moderation. A student who began a tutorial on minimalism with me yesterday reported that the other music teachers she informed about it were disgusted and didn’t want to hear about it. It’s a fact. Maybe your circumstances have been atypical.
    Here’s a principle to keep in mind: in my experience, almost all composers claim that they never discriminate on the basis of style, that they like any kind of music as long as it’s good. But by strange coincidence, every individual minimalist piece they hear turns out to be no good. You can’t always take people at their word, without observing their behavior.

  7. Oops — sorry to hear about your luggage!
    But congratulations to you and the other conference organizers on creating an event that was enjoyed by the academics in this field, and also, through the concerts, reached out into the community and gave the less initiated the opportunity to introduce themselves — or further immerse themselves — in this music. Well done.

  8. Congratulations on the conference!
    “Here’s a principle to keep in mind: in my experience, almost all composers claim that they never discriminate on the basis of style, that they like any kind of music as long as it’s good. But by strange coincidence, every individual minimalist piece they hear turns out to be no good. You can’t always take people at their word, without observing their behavior.”
    I was always curious about what a student could do if their professors genuinely dislike the music they create. It seems like a giant imposition on the student to alter his style just to fit his or her teacher’s expectation of good music. Is this at least expected of the student in so far as the course is concerned?
    I don’t want to seem like I think this is the norm, but there has to have been overzealous teachers who try to discourage them into writing more traditional pieces, right?
    KG replies: The answer to that needs its own blog entry. I’ll try tomorrow.

  9. Boy, it’s a good thing I know that everything you say on the internet is wrong (Wrong, I tell you!) or I might let those nice things you said about me go to my head :)
    Seriously, though, the conference was fabulous, and I’m really glad you liked my paper. I’m almost done with my own post-conference roundup for S21, so I’ll save most of my thoughts for that.
    KG replies: Galen, I’ve always thought you and I think much alike. You need a shrink.

  10. It was quite simply the finest conference I’ve ever been to, Kyle. What you and the UMKC folks were able to bring together – excellent to exquisite performances of important (mostly seldom-heard) works along with an impressive collection of thought-provoking papers – was absolutely outstanding. Toss in the cameraderie that you describe so accurately, top it off with some memorable barbecue, and you have an event that will not soon be equalled.
    KG replies: I’ll say “hear, hear!” to that, since the UMKC guys deserve the bulk of the credit.

  11. This is a wonderful blog post, Kyle. In the last two photos, that hideous wall sculpture behind the piano is especially prominent. One local composer conjectured that it’s meant to represent a giant vagina, but if so, what’s with those creepy tentacles? Nonetheless, great photos, and it was a privilege performing November with you.
    KG replies: Vaginas don’t have creepy tentacles? That’s nice to know. Yeah, I don’t know what that thing was, but it kind of looks like my halo in the last photo. The privilege was all mine.

  12. I think I thought it was supposed to be a brain, with the tentacles representing thoughts or something, but I don’t have a picture that shows the whole thing to check, and the vagina hypothesis is certainly much more interesting.
    The Vagina Hypothesis would also make an excellent band name or album title.

  13. Are you saying it’s not a representation of your digestive system after spending too much time at Arthur Bryant’s?

  14. Galen Brown’s keynote address appears to be available as a pdf on Sequenza21 here.
    Brown’s paper makes clear a fascinating implicit link twixt serialism and early minimalism. In both cases, process appears to play a primary role. For psychoacoustic and cognitive neuropsychology reasons, however, the process in early minimialism proves perceptible, while in serialism it doesn’t.
    KG replies: It was a great paper, but not a keynote address. Our keynote speakers were Tom Johnson and Robert Carl.

  15. Goddamn google is playing games with search again. Now apparently you can’t get the actual URL from “copy link address,” only the absurdly long google search string. And copying & pasting the shortened URL from the google listing doesn’t work at all.
    20,000 of the world’ best programmers, and THIS is the best google can manage? What a bunch of pathetic clueless clowns.
    Here’s a URL that should work, the previous URL is (predictably, due to google’s gross incompetence) 404.
    Galen Brown’s 2009 minimalism keynote speech.