The Difference Revealed

From today’s press release from Other Minds:

“In America, there is not enough angst!” Louis Andriessen once told the journalist K. Robert Schwarz. 

I frequently daydream about moving to Europe. Then there are times that I think I should just stay in America. This pronouncement occasioned one of those times. I’ve heard this from Europeans before. What the hell is supposed to be so goddamn wonderful about angst?

Andriessen and I are both featured composers at Other Minds next month. And next October we are both giving keynote addresses at the Third International Conference on Minimalist Music. I think the topic of my address will have to be the advantages of life without angst.

There is nothing I work so hard on as ridding my life of angst. And I do it first in my music, in hopes that that will teach me how to do it in my life….


  1. cole says

    I dislike the new blog format. The brevity of this post (though it is a good one) is disappointing compared t the length I was expecting (I expected you to have much to say).

    On the content, it is certainly something to think about. As I type, I am listening to Le Tombeau de Couperin.

  2. says

    This makes me wonder if you like/appreciate angst in the music of others, and whether you have any thoughts on catharsis via music.

    I like having comments rolling down the right side so I can see them without having to click. But mainly delighted you’ve stuck with blogging for a while longer.

    Looking forward to the Planets DVD!

    KG replies: Interesting question. There is certainly music I like of which angst is a well-handled component, for instance Wozzeck. But I think in general, music that exudes a free-floating, unmotivated angst is music that I grow bored with easily. I can love sad, and angry, and especially depressive music, because there are always things at hand to be sad and angry and depressed about. But to express undifferentiated worry and apprehension is boring in people and I find it boring in music. Catharsis seems like a very different thing. I think about it mainly in terms of Mahler, especially his Sixth, one of my favorite works. Wouldn’t try it myself, though perhaps there’s a little of that in the finale to Custer.

  3. Jim says

    The last time there was “angst” in Andriessen’s life was, when, 1945?

    KG replies: Wouldn’t know. Some people can generate their own. Maybe existentialism is a permanent condition over there. On the other hand, maybe it’s the US’s actions that cause angst in the rest of the world.

  4. says

    Hasn’t he been paying attention to our politics lately? We have plenty of angst to go around, so much so that we frequently export them overseas.

    Maybe he’s still stuck in the “Worker’s Union” mindset, where we were supposed to have united and overthrown the government by now. Sorry to disappoint.

  5. Ben Richter says

    Yeah, Louis’s wrong anyway. I think we Americans have altogether too much angst these days. It says he “once” mentioned this, so if it was forty years ago, I don’t know as much of his perspective. Maybe his real complaint is that our American angst isn’t nihilism, such as can fountain here in Holland among the Calvinistas – it’s perhaps more visceral and naive.

    KG replies: Well Rob Schwarz did die ten years ago, so it’s not recent. Don’t talk too much about being in Holland, or I’ll get deeply envious.

  6. says

    No angst in America ? I wonder what a dream world you live in (America). I’m French, but I think I reckon angst in “Neither” by Feldman (but is it not european, through Beckett?), and in many works that I know by American artists.

  7. mclaren says

    Considering how savagely the Rutte-Verhagen government plans to cut the arts in the Netherlands, including shutting down the entire Dutch public broadcasting music division and three whole Dutch orchestras, I’d say old Louis is looking at more angst than he can handle right now. Along with the rest of the Dutch musicians and composers.

    As Samuel Vriezen writes:

    There is one positive side-effect of the Rutte administration’s frontal assault on the free arts. It puts the arts at the point where they belong: at the heart of the political-cultural battlefield. Unfortunately, it’s a position that the arts in the Netherlands are not in the least prepared for.

    Source: “The Struggle of Art,” Samuel Vriezen, January 2011. Scroll down to the bottom for the English translation.

    Oh, and by the way…look for these kinds of cuts to cross the Atlantic soon. The NEA endowment just managed to climb back to where it was in 1988 here in the United States of Amnesia. In America, we’ve got trillions of dollars for endless pointless lost wars in third-world hellholes and DHS goons whose main job is to confiscate counterfeit NHL jerseys and shut down pirate video websites…but not one penny for the arts.

    You want angst? Better be careful what you ask for, Louis.

    • Juhani Nuorvala says

      Louis was speaking of the sound of his 1970′s music compared to that of his well-known American colleagues that he’d been grouped with. Here’s the original quote: “It [my music] has not the cosmic sound of those pieces which Reich and Glass wrote at the same time. What is different from my music is that in America there is not enough angst! I’m much more aggressive, I would say.”
      KG replies: Thanks for the context. But I wonder why he didn’t say, “What is different in my music is that in Europe we have much more angst!”

      • Juhani Nuorvala says

        Non-native speaker given to polemics, talking informally? I assume what he meant is this: “I found American minimal music interesting but for me there was not enough Angst in it; I write in a more aggressive style.” Anyway, great that you two are featured in Other Minds, one of the most interesting new music events on the globe. Hope there will be concerts and talks online.

  8. says

    It could be Louis’ well-known love of irony, since he’s one of the least angst-ridden people I’ve ever met. Or maybe it’s his reaction to Steve Reich’s description of where minimalism came from, that growing up around Chuck Berry, hamburgers and Model T’s it made no sense to write music immitating that being written in post-war Europe.

    Either way, I’m starting to notice more angst in younger composers. If the economy and politics keeps nose-diving in this country, expect more angst in our music.

    KG replies: I never said I don’t feel angst. I write music without angst because I already have enough angst, I don’t want to listen to it, and I also want to teach myself how to overcome it by writing past it.