Minimalism Invented in England, It Turns Out

Point-Elsie Duet

With all of the classical prototypes for musical minimalism that are so perennially trotted out - Perotin, the first six minutes of Das Rheingold, Bolero, Vexations and other Satie works - I'm surprised no one ever mentions the duet between Point and Elsie, "I have a song to sing-O," in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard. The entire, rather long song is sung over a drone on D, and the verses follow a strict additive process, adding four new measures with each verse, somewhat akin to the early works of Glass and Rzewski: This … [Read more...]

The Negative Profession

We don't often bring guest composers to speak at Bard, and sometimes we feel guilty about that, and make an effort. So a few weeks ago we brought in a fairly well-known composer of my own generation, who told the students that "the problem with minimalism is that it's self-indulgent to make attractive music just because people like it." I spent a long time trying to parse that - that it's self-indulgent to make music that people like. And today a composer slightly older than myself came to Bard - where we house the John Cage Trust, offer a … [Read more...]