Friday, July 07, 2006

Modern-Day Minimalists

Avant-gardism, or minimalism if you like, has been a frequently misunderstood movement in the history of music composition. Staunch critics will bring up the usual charge of art-wankery, referring in particular to the seemingly extreme, face-value absurdity of John Cage's "4'33" (which consists of nothing more than the ambient noise produced while the player(s) does nothing for that exact length of time). However, without the minimalist movement, there would be no luminaries like Glass (with his hypnotic recurrent-chord motifs), Stockhausen (the pioneer of modern electronica) and Ligeti (who freed fundamental chords from their restrictive moorings to move into unexplored sonic territories) to startle the somnambulant post-romantics out of their fancy-free reveries.

The proponents of modern-day minimalism might be few and far between (when compared to the numerous performers of works from the classical and romantic periods), but a handful do stand out by virtue of their artistic audacity. Stalwart brainiac Brian Eno has produced literally hundreds of electronically inclined avant-garde works (taking inspirational cues from Stockhausen and Boulez), while Michael Nyman has more or less inherited the mantle of modalism from Glass, specialising in a more hermetic style, but still retaining the basic structures of minimalist repetition).

Elsewhere, Dominic Harlan is an adroit session pianist who excels in reinterpreting romantic and post-romantic-era compositions in the micro-polyphonic methodology espoused by Ligeti. Even serial diletantte William Orbit managed to come up with a decent work in the form of "Pieces in a Modern Style", which gives a number of classical, post-romantic and minimalist compositions spacey downtempo ambient makeovers.

Of course, none of the hardcore traditionalists who are set in their worships of Ludwig and Wolfgnag will be remotely moved by the truly revolutionary events occurring on the other side of the spectrum. A bit of a shame, really.


Blogger sashi said...

John Cage's "4'33" is my favourite piece of music of all time. ALL TIME.

12:25 PM  
Blogger katy said...

fabulous blog. Glad you found mine, because now, in turn, I have found yours....

2:25 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Ng said...

Hi CT,
Thanks for giving me your blog URL. i do visit it and attempt to read the entries. It looks like it is in English, but when i read turns out to be in some other alien language. Or maybe i am too dumb and your blog is too deep for me to understand. Can you write a few simple, light-hearted entries to cater for friends like me? hehe...thanks.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Ng said...

Do you take requests?

8:26 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Ng said...

Dear CT,
By request i meant would you review an album for me. It's really up to you to accept or not, since i know you have your own music preferences. So if it would be a torture for you to fulfil this request then just don't bother ok?

But any info about this artist and his albums would be fine for me. I am currently interested in the artist and album below. Thanks Mr Music Man. :-)

Jamie Cullum - Catching Tales

1:41 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Ng said...

Now i am curious to find out how John Cage's "4'33" sounds like.

8:11 PM  

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