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My Top 5 Minimalism Picks

post #1 of 66
Thread Starter 
Minimalism is an under appreciated classical genre. I love Minimalism, and for anybody interested in getting into real, quality, emotional minimalism, here are my top 5 minimalism CD's that are also great in great headphones! (Got any you'd like to add?)

1) Arvo Pärt (Alina)
- Words can not describe this CD. Just buy it. In great headphones you can hear the players breathing, each note dying away into the piano and even the slightest pedal movements. Contains the most important Tintinabulist work... Für Alina (in my opinion)

2) Terry Riley - In C, Paul Hillier, Conductor
- This is BY FAR the best recording of this work available. I was skeptical but I can no longer stand listening to the earlier versions with the incredibly loud distasteful sleezy jazz flair. This album is gorgeous.... an all-time favorite. I've listened to it hundreds of times since it's 2007 release.

3) Philip Glass - Solo Piano
This is glass at it's most basic, and an album that defines a career. So simple yet so gorgeos this piece sounds great in my Ety's.

4) Steve Reich - PHASES (A Nonesuch Retrospective)
-A great 9 CD strater Reich set with ALL his greatest works (save piano phase). Different Trains and the Counterpoints (Cello, New York, Electric) will blow you away.

5) (TIE) Arvo Pärt - Tabula Rasa
- This is arguably the most important CD that Pärt released. Tabula Rasa is an incredible piece and should not be missed.... and neither should Fratres. This CD contains both and SHOULD NOT be missed.

5) (TIE) Simeon Ten Holt - Complete Works for Piano Ensemble.
- This 11 CD box set is worth every penny... but I chose this box set to add to this list because Canto Ostinato is INCREDIBLE, and two other reasons: I met Jaroen Van Veen this year and worked with him (one of the pianists) and because piano ensemble is something interesting to experience... you don't see it every day.

Well I hope that this list fosters some new enjoyment of minimalism.... and if you enjoy the Pärt and Reich you may be interested to know that I am going into the studio next week to record Spiegel Im Spiegel (for clarinet and piano) and New York Counterpoint (for 11 layered clarinets). Check out my myspace if you are interested!

Cheers!
post #2 of 66
I've never heard of minimalism. So it would, I imagine, be like the opposite of heavy counterpoint, or symphony?
post #3 of 66
To my hearing, minimalist compositions tend to have an internal gravity that is based on repetitions; sort of like the way the tides roll in at the beach. The more extended pieces tend to unfold gradually, as each composition's internal rhythms, textures, contours, whatever, take shape. The words meditative and hypnotic are often used to describe them, but that's not always the case—particularly with Philip Glass, whose ostinatos are often on overdrive. With the possible exception of LaMonte Young, the OP has named what you might call minimalism's rock stars. What follows are some lesser-known records that I think are equally rewarding.


Morton Feldman Triadic Memories or Patterns In A Chromatic Field

Eleanor Hovda Coastal Traces

Jon Hassell/Brian Eno Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics (obviously, Eno qualifies as a real rock star.)

Phil Kline Unsilent Night (minimalist Xmas music that you can play year-round; who'd a thunk it?)

Daniel Lentz Missa Umbrarum

Ingram Marshall Dark Waters

Kevin Volans White Man Sleeps


Question for the OP: How does the Paul Hillier version of In C compare to the Bang On A Can live version from the late '90s? I wouldn't call that one "sleazy" of "jazzy."
post #4 of 66
Thread Starter 
Forgot some Feldman... but yes this one is great (Morton Feldman Triadic Memories or Patterns In A Chromatic Field)

As in visual art, Minimalism in music is writing with only the basics of an idea, often with heavy use of ostinato. (Minimalism - Wikipedia)

Glass for example, uses the a descending third in many pieces and it has created his signature sound.

Pärt and Feldman deal more with sparsity and beauty in simplicity. They have been regarded as even more minimal because they don't have as much going on to make their point. Some of Feldman's pieces are hours long though... but as he once said (well something close) "I find myself only interested in quiet sounds".

I also neglected to mention any Cage or Nyman... but there is a whole genre out there, this is just a starter list!
post #5 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Question for the OP: How does the Paul Hillier version of In C compare to the Bang On A Can live version from the late '90s? I wouldn't call that one "sleazy" of "jazzy."
I'll admit, I haven't bought this one... I was turned off by the fact that Mike Lowenstern (one of my favorite Bass Clarinetists) was playing alto saxophone. Should I pick it up?

Either way... the Hillier version is a masterpiece. With just (gorgeous) voices and mallet ensemble there is a surprising amount of variation, and everything was treated with shocking direction and stylistic genius. He has seen something in this piece that I think few before him had. Just buy it... It's incredible.
post #6 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Assorted View Post
I've never heard of minimalism. So it would, I imagine, be like the opposite of heavy counterpoint, or symphony?
It's just a different genre within classical. Like the difference between Baroque and Romantic, some things stay the same, while other things are introduced or simply accepted as genuine musical thoughts and expressions.
post #7 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean.Perrin View Post
I'll admit, I haven't bought this one... I was turned off by the fact that Mike Lowenstern (one of my favorite Bass Clarinetists) was playing alto saxophone. Should I pick it up?
I think the Bang On A Can is quite nice (Michael Lowenstern plays soprano sax, btw), but I'd probably feel better recommending it to you after I heard the Hillier. It sounds as if you've heard quite a few versions, and the instrumentation of this latest one sounds both novel and really, really intriguing. Thanx.
post #8 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tru blu View Post
Michael Lowenstern plays soprano sax, btw
Same difference (lol).
post #9 of 66
Some of OP's choices are a bit odd: Solo Piano is not an obvious Glass recommendation, and it's "cheating" to name the boxed sets. My top five (for the purposes of introducing someone to minimalism) would be something like this:

1) Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians
2) Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach
3) John Adams, Shaker Loops
4) Arvo Part, Tabula Rasa (the album, not just that work)
5) Brian Eno, Music for Airports

My top five favourites (they're all "corrupted" minimalist works) would be:

1) Steve Reich, Tehillim
2) John Adams, Harmonielehre
3) Arvo Part, Te Deum
4) Philip Glass, Akhnaten
5) John Adams, Grand Pianola Music
post #10 of 66
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sordel View Post
Some of OP's choices are a bit odd: Solo Piano is not an obvious Glass recommendation, and it's "cheating" to name the boxed sets. My top five (for the purposes of introducing someone to minimalism) would be something like this:

1) Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians
2) Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach
3) John Adams, Shaker Loops
4) Arvo Part, Tabula Rasa (the album, not just that work)
5) Brian Eno, Music for Airports

My top five favourites (they're all "corrupted" minimalist works) would be:

1) Steve Reich, Tehillim
2) John Adams, Harmonielehre
3) Arvo Part, Te Deum
4) Philip Glass, Akhnaten
5) John Adams, Grand Pianola Music
I would say that it's more "cheating" to avoid one of the two founders of minimalism, Terry Riley. In addition, much classical music is available only in box sets for certian recordings. The version Canto Ostinato that I was referring to, for example, exists only there. Furthermore, I can't think of a better way to experience Steve Reich than to buy the 9 CD Phases for just under $35. Come on...

Btw... the Glass album IS an obvious recommendation.... seeing as this is MY top 5 list. Lol.
post #11 of 66
Well, I like some of Riley's works, but I don't regard In C as top five required listening, any more than I do LaMonte Young's The Well-Tuned Piano, or other precursor works. Everything that you need to know in terms of minimalist technique is there in Reich, Adams and Glass.
post #12 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sordel View Post
Some of OP's choices are a bit odd: Solo Piano is not an obvious Glass recommendation…
Well, I haven't heard the disc, but I think it's okay to look beyond the "obvious"—which is why I took the opportunity to namecheck some lesser-known discs. I've said it in other threads here that with so much good music to choose from, it's kind of a shame that the Music 101 game always leads us back to the same records. And while I wouldn't be the one to deny John Adams' popularity or significance, the truth is that I never think of recommending his music. Obviously a personal thing: Shaker Loops is indeed beautiful; Harmonielehre less so to my hearing. I'd probably go with In C over that.
post #13 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by tru blu View Post
Well, I haven't heard the disc, but I think it's okay to look beyond the "obvious"—which is why I took the opportunity to namecheck some lesser-known discs. I've said it in other threads here that with so much good music to choose from, it's kind of a shame that the Music 101 game always leads us back to the same records.
Great point: we do tend to go around in circles rather than recommending second-string composers who also have a lot to contribute. What I meant to say, I guess, is that I don't rate Solo Piano as a good album even by Glass's standards, let alone those of minimalism in general.
post #14 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Assorted View Post
I've never heard of minimalism. So it would, I imagine, be like the opposite of heavy counterpoint, or symphony?
The essence of minimalism is to create musical works using small, repetitive units of material. Different composers have different ways to work with such units: Philip Glass and Michael Nyman write music that is essentially "liner": there is usually just one melodic line going on at any time. They keep the work interesting by varying the tempo, dynamics, timbre, and by combining the units in different ways. On the other hand you have composers like Steve Reich (and sometimes Morton Feldman and Arvo Part), who stack up their material, layer by layer, like counterpoints. Reich is famous for introducing the technique of "phasing" -- two or more identical musical lines are played, in unison at first, and then slowly allowed to go out of sync. Thus, the composer is able to build a work of ever changing patterns, with very little material.

Another strategy is to strip the music to its bare essentials: Arvo Part reduces everything to triads, which become the building block of his music.

N.B. Steve Reich's Phase box is a 5-CD set; before that Nonesuch has one 10-CD Reich Box that is expensive, not nearly brim full, and contains fillers that I don't care at all.
post #15 of 66
Philip Glass's Metamorphosis Suite (in the album Solo Piano) is certainly one of his "cleanest", most astute work. A good recommendation I'd say.

John Adams is certainly uneven: he is the most verbose of the lot, and I suspect all the theorizing gets in the way of his writing music. I still regard his Violin Concerto as one of the hallmarks of the genre.

What baffles me is why Terry Riley is still stuck in the minimalist camp. In C is so long ago and he never wrote anything like that since (as far as I'm aware). Afterwards Riley is more of an improviser and writes microtonal music that sounds improvised.
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