Monday, September 26, 2011

Postminimalism Playlist, After Kyle Gann's Discography

A few weeks ago, like every other card-carrying philistine, I thought Minimalism Music meant Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams, In C, and La Monte Young. I knew a few other composers whose works obviously drew from minimalism, but I didn't know how to categorize them, since they often sound vastly different from each other.

Then I stumbled upon a blog post on Modern Tempo, and discovered William Duckworth's The Time Curve Preludes. Upon first hearing I was totally enchanted by its "Mozartean melodic logic" (I also noticed that Coldplay "borrowed" the grand melody of 12th prelude for their 'Til Kingdom Come). I rushed to Wikipedia and read everything I could find. It turned out there's a genre that I never heard of: Postminimalism.

Kyle Gann
"Writer Kyle Gann has employed the term more strictly to connote the style that flourished in the 1980s and 1990s and characterized by:
  1. a steady pulse, usually continuing throughout a work or movement;
  2. a diatonic pitch language, tonal in effect but avoiding traditional functional tonality;
  3. general evenness of dynamics, without strong climaxes or nuanced emotionalism; and
  4. unlike minimalism, an avoidance of obvious or linear formal design."
The last history book on contemporary music I've read, Richard Taruskin's Music in the Late Twentieth Century, doesn't even mention this term or any of its key composers, so I guess many people are not familiar with this genre. I recommend everyone, especially those who hate or feel indifferent to minimalism, to read Kyle Gann's fascinating essays Minimal Music, Maximal Impact and A Forest from the Seeds of Minimalism. Thanks to Spotify, I listened to many of the postminimalism recordings he listed, and I compiled a sampler playlist, one track per composer, for those of you who want to explore this genre.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Postminimalism (26 track, total time: 3 hours) See track list below, composers and works are linked to official sites, Wikipedia or other informative pages. Personally I found it a thoroughly enjoyable playlist that deserves and benefits from intense repeated listens (I can only take Music For 18 Musicians once a month. Einstein On The Beach? Once a year if you mean the whole opera...), hope you like it as well, and look forward to recommendations.
P.S. My experience with postminimalism music is another example of the power of cloud services. Before Spotify, if I read about The Time Curve Preludes, I could only hear 30-seconds previews on Amazon; if I heard it on the radio (not possible where I live) and was convinced I should explore this genre, since I couldn't afford Kyle Gann's whole discography, I probably would start a discussion on Amazon's classical forum, then after hours of head-scratching I'd end up buying a couple of albums the most participators recommended.

With Spotify, now I can listen to anything that arouses my curiosity, anything I wouldn't normally buy, immediately, and even recommend to a few people who otherwise won't listen to it either. At the cost of a few imaginary CD sales, Spotify introduces this music to at least dozens (average subscribers number of my contemporary playlists) of paying listeners, and maybe even motivates a few of them to buy recordings of these composers, or go to the concert when a postminimalism pianist is in town. To me this explains Why Classical Music Needs Spotify.


    1. You should add at least one piece by composer Michael Nyman, since it was he who first used the term minimalism in reference to music back in the 60s.

    2. Definitely a good list! ...though I can't help but protest at Terry Riley's contributions to modern music being simplified to "In C" !

    3. You mind think this fits in the continuum:

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