MINIMALISM: REPRISE AND REPETITION IN CONTEMPORARY MUSIC
Historical Traditions IV: Special Topics
This course will look at 20th century and contemporary music through the lens of minimalism. Topics will include the precursors to minimalism (20th century experimentalists through Schoenberg, Cage, and Morton Feldman) to the Minimalists (LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich) to the post-minimalists (John Adams and the so-called New Tonalists.) The intersection of minimalism with World Music, Popular Music, and Commercial music will be examined as will ramifications for broadly marketed music today. The class will closely consider musical matters such as trance, pulse, patterns, additive rhythm, perpetual motion, tape delay, and visualization. Of further concern will be how we hear contemporary music – classical and popular – having experienced minimalism. We will discuss the commercial and cultural ramifications of repetition.
Each class will focus on listenings, readings, and contextualizing the music. We will endeavor to embrace the zeitgeist of the the birth of minimalism and how that mindset has been developed by a variety of composers, described by writers, and filtered in modern culture. We will learn to hone our listening, writing, and speaking skills, all toward the goal of accurately describing and contextualizing what we hear. We will discuss what minimalism can offer us in our approach to performance practice and problem solving.
Discussing the works and learning how to talk about what we hear is the emphasis of the course. In addition to learning the core concepts, composers, and repertoire of the minimalist and post-minimalist eras, we hope to extrapolate what we learn and apply it to our current pursuits – whether purely artistic or creatively applied to cultural, administrative, or entrepreneurial presentation. Participation, including learning ourselves how to play some works we listen to (like Steve Reich’s Clapping Music), is highly valued and will be graded.
The usual expectations of good collegiate conduct apply to this course. Attendance is required. Attention in class is crucial. In a class about minimalism and the challenge of attending to long works of repetition, drones, and gradual shifts, it is of the utmost importance. Use of phones, texting, etcetera is not allowed. Good citizenship is a virtue and will be reflected in your grade. We will be delving deeply into avant-garde movements in music. Curiosity, an open mind, and a patient intellect is required.
The required readings and listening examples are on the syllabus and will be posted on Blackboard. Each class will have required listening and suggestions for additional listening. It is highly recommended that you listen to all the works. You must listen to the complete works. Some of them are long. That is part of the point of minimalism. You must embrace that ethos to succeed in the class. I suggest that you listen to works as often as you can. It is okay to download the works on your ipod and experience the music in different settings – from quiet solitary listening, to walking around campus. (just please look both ways before you cross the street.)
As much as possible listen to the additional works requested each week. We will also listen to works together and discuss our reactions to them in light of our own private listening and the writings about the work.
Note that the works you choose for your presentations and papers may need to be researched at the library, on digital online resources, and/or possibly purchased online. All of the readings assigned for class will be available in pdf format on Blackboard. You will, however, have to download on Netflix or purchase the DVD of the film Koyaanisqatsi. For further readings within the books we are reading from you must obtain your own copies. As well, it is important to bring your own listening interests to bear on this class. Therefore, be prepared to share examples from your own listening library, particuarly excerpts that pertain to the core listening examples in class.
Two projects – an oral presentation and a six-page paper – are required. The presentation project will be independently researched and based on a repertoire selection that is, for the most part, not covered in class. This is truly a presentation to your classmates of new material not otherwise covered. There are many suggestions of composers and pieces to choose to present to the class in lists at the end of the syllabus. The six-page paper can also be from repertoire not covered in class. However, the paper must touch on topics and pieces covered in class. The purpose of the paper is to choose a unifying idea that brings together different threads from the listening and readings. You will have the chance to revise your 6-page paper if you choose after getting it back with comments. In the case of both the presentation and the paper you will have to hand in a short one-paragraph abstract on your topic. These will be due as indicated below on the syllabus.
In addition to the presentation and paper topic there will be two short in-class listening assignments. For each of these I will play an unidentified piece in class two times on a Tuesday. You will take notes as you listen and write a three-page paper from your notes for Friday. The purpose of this exercise is to sharpen your listening skills and ability to describe what you hear in writing.
Lastly, there will be a Final Exam on the last day of class of material we covered in class.
Finally, as the course evolves, we may make repertoire detours and assignment changes.
Requirements (each 20% of grade)
READINGS (excerpts from these books and articles):>
Joseph Auner, Music of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, Vol. VI, Western Music in Context: A Norton History, Norton (in production): pp 381-407
Barucha, Jamshed Music Cognition and Perceptual Facilitation, Musical Perception Fall 1987 pp. 1-7; 24-28
Cage, John Silence, Wesleyan University Press, 1961 pp. 3-13; 18-35; 76-84
Carl, Robert Terry Riley’s In C, Oxford University Press 2009 pp. 1-36; 80-96
Fink, Robert Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice, University of California Press, 2005 pp. 16-21; 25-32; 120-166
Gann, Kyle American Music in the Twentieth Century, Schirmer Books 1997
Gann, Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice, University of California Press 2006 pp. 42 – 49; 18-192
Geiersbach, Frederick, Making the Most of Minimalism in Music, Music Educators Journal 1998 pp. 26-30; 49
Griffiths, Paul Modern Music and After Directions since 1945, Oxford University Press 1996 pp. 94-103; 176-181
Herrigel, Eugen Zen in the Art of Archery, Vintage, 1999 pp. 3-18; 53-74
Kostelanetz, Writings on Glass, University of California Press, 1999 pp. 131-151;176-188
Ives, David Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread (one-act play), Vintage, 1994
Maue, Kenneth, Water in the Lake, Harper Collins 1979 pp. 1-14
Reich, Steve Writings On Music, Oxford University Press, 2002 “Music as a Gradual Process” (3pp.) , “Notes on Compositions 1965-1973” (23 pp.)
Ross, Alex The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, Macmillan 2008
Saks, Oliver Musicophilia, Random House 2008 pp. 41-48
Strickland, Edward Minimalism: Origins Indiana Press 1993 pp. 119-142; 257-271
Taruskin, Richard Vol 5 Oxford History of Western Music, Oxford University Press, 2005 pp. 351-411
SUGGESTED ADDITIONAL LISTENING:
Week 1: Intro & Early Precedents: Stillness and Isolation
1/10 Intro, samples, discussion of assignments. How to talk about what we hear.
Reading: Ross, “Dance of the Earth” pp. 74-98
Week 2: Additive Rhythms and Early Precedents
1/17 Polyrhythms, additive rhythms: Bartok, Satie (Vexations), Ives
Reading: Gann, “Minimalism” pp. 184-216
Week 3: Conceptualism, Fluxus, and Respite
1/24 Cage (Silence), Brown, Feldman, Wolff, Harrison
Reading: Cage, John “The Fuuture of Music”, Experimental Music”, “Erik Satie”
Week 4: Terry Riley’s In C
1/31 Bebop, Coltraine, Davis, Mingus, Contemporary Improv
Reading: Carl, Robert Introduction, pp. 1-36; “Life and Art before In C” pp. 80-96
Week 5: Phase Music, World Music IN-CLASS LISTENING ASSIGNMENT 1 (3pp.)
2/7 West African Drumming, Gamelan, Pendulum Music, Its Gonna Rain, Four Organs
Reading: Reich “Music as a Gradual Process” (3pp.) , “Notes on Compositions 1965-1973” (23pp.)
Week 6: Environmental Music, LaMonte Young, and Drones
2/14 Trio, High Tension Line Transformer, Environmental Recordings
Reading: Strickland “Sound” pp. 119-142
Week 7: Buddhism, I Ching, Indian Music, Meditation Presentation Proposal Due
2/21 Buddhist practice in music, Vocal Music, Satyagraha, Cage Scores
Reading: Ross, pp. 473-512 pp. 284-9
Required Listening: Glass: Satyagraha, Act 1, Act 3 finale; Monk: Do you be
Week 8: Film Music, Ambient Music IN-CLASS LISTENING ASSIGNMENT #2 (3pp)
2/28 Varese: Musique Concréte, Electronic Music, Beatles, Brian Eno ambient music
Reading: Berg (in Kostelanetz), “Philip Glass on composing for film and other forms: the case of Koyaanisqatsi” pp. 131-151
Week 9 Cultural Practice 6-Page Paper Proposal Due
3/13 Commercials, Jingles and Ear Worm; Suzuki Method, performance practices
Reading: Fink, “Minimalism rescued from its Devotees” pp. 16-21;
Week 10: Exploring Glass, Reich Developing Canons PRESENTATIONS BEGIN
3/20 Reich: Tehillim, Double Sextet, Revival of Chant
Reading: Taruskin, “A Harmonous Avant-Garde?” pp. 351-395
Week 11: Sonicism and Harmonic Spectrums
3/27 Partch, Braxton, Dreyblatt, Branca
Reading: Gann (Writings): “Harps from Heaven: Glenn Branca reemerges from the Thick of Theory” pp. 42 – 49; “Composing the Lingo: Harry Partch, American Inventor” pp. 188-192
Week 12: European Minimalism and World Music
4/3 Ligeti, Gorecki, Tavener, Hilliard Ensemble
4/6 Andriessen, Nyman, Tuvan Throat Singing, Digeridoo 6-PAGE PAPER DUE
Reading: Taruskin, “A Harmonous Avant-Garde?” pp. 396-411
Week 13: Post-Minimalism
4/10 Adams, Lehrdahl, Lieberson, David Ives one-act play
4/13 Bang on a Can, Lang, Beglarian, Bresnick
Reading: Adams, “Faulty Wiring,” pp. 93-99; “A Harmony Lesson,” pp.100 -124
Week 14: Eclecticism, Global Affairs 6 page paper revision due (optional)
4/17 Adams, Theofanidis, Makaan, Levering, Muhly, Gandolfi, Golijov
Reading: Adams, “Singing Terrorists” pp. 152-170
Week 15: Conclusions and Applications
4/24 Business Reading, review of repertoire
COMPOSERS FOR PRESENTATION AND PAPER TOPICS
1950s Experiential Minimalism: Indeterminancy
1960/70s Conceptualism and Early Technology
World Music Precedents and Environmental Recordings:
Bebop and Modal Jazz Precedents
Early Electronic Music
1960/70s Minimalism: Drones, Phase Music; Tape Delay; Pattern-Pulse; Additive Rhythm
Popular Music Crosscurrents
NORTHEASTERN DIGITAL ONLINE RESOURCES:
OTHER ONLINE RESOURCES: