12-10-08: My Take On Minimalism

12-10-08: My Take On Minimalism

My take on Minimalism—the music movement led by Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and others—is that it was largely unnecessary. It was, in a way, a good solution to a false problem. The perceived problem was serialism, the 12-tone school of composition founded by Arnold Schoenberg and his cohorts in Vienna.  Minimalism was an attempt to infuse contemporary classical music with a new, fresh, accessible kind of tonality to counteract the dreary modernism that characterized the post-tonal music of Schoenberg and the followers of his 12-tone dogma at the time (late 1950s, early 1960s).

The truth, however, is that, as  a creative medium for serious music, the whole of classical music itself was well on its way to being made obsolete by jazz, American Music Theater, and eventually pop/rock. So Minimalism, which took on the trappings of rock without ever actually being rock, was in effect attempting to solve, in a rather pretentious and forced way, that which had already been solved (in a non-pretentious way) as an organic cultural phenomenon on the streets of America and England. The real creative musical artists of America and beyond—from Berlin, Rodgers, Armstrong,  Gershwin, Ellington and Sinatra, to Miles & Coltrane, to Dylan and the Beatles—had already solved this particular problem.

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