Loading...
Classical Music

A Neophyte's Guide to the Minimalist Jukebox Festival

Comments (0)

By

Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 3:35 AM
click to enlarge A rehearsal for a Hammer Museum performance that will combine Terry Riley's minimalist masterwork In C with a swam of of these balloon men. - COURTESY OF THE HAMMER MUSEUM
  • Courtesy of the Hammer Museum
  • A rehearsal for a Hammer Museum performance that will combine Terry Riley's minimalist masterwork In C with a swam of of these balloon men.
In 2006 the L.A. Philharmonic did something no other orchestra in the world had done: a survey of minimalist music. Curated by one of the leading practitioners of the style, John Adams, the Minimalist Jukebox Festival resurrected forgotten but crucial works, touched on classics and showcased newer takes on one of the most influential styles of the late 20th century. Anyone who heard Glenn Branca's 80 electric guitars and basses rocking out in Walt Disney Concert Hall, or watched decaying silent films accompanied by Michael Gordon's blistering score, is unlikely to have forgotten those experiences.

Adams returns for the long-overdue second Minimalist Jukebox Festival, running through May 4. It focuses less on the early works, devoting more time to more recent music by the genre's giants and remounting several important works from the 1980s and '90s.

To understand how minimalism changed composition, it's helpful to revisit modern classical music in the early 1960s. Composers then had two options. The first is that they could create complicated rules to choose their pitches, rhythms and even how loud the notes were. To the average listener, these pieces sounded like arrhythmic beeps and farts.

The other possibility was to leave choices of pitch and rhythm to the performers, who had to interpret cool-looking scores that could be hung on the wall as art. These pieces also sounded like arrhythmic beeps and farts.
Some young American composers were disenchanted with these options. Instead, they wrote music with a constant pulse and built from small patterns created from the same scales used by Bach or The Beatles. Harmonies changed very slowly over 20 to 60 minutes of continuous music. Minimalism's steady rhythms and easily perceptible harmonies were an enormous contrast to the seemingly arbitrary sounds of composers at the time.
click to enlarge Yuval Sharon of The Industry (left) with Terry Riley, the creator of In C, the first minimalist work - COURTESY OF THE HAMMER MUSEUM
  • Courtesy of The Hammer Museum
  • Yuval Sharon of The Industry (left) with Terry Riley, the creator of In C, the first minimalist work

The first piece composed in this style was Terry Riley's In C in 1964. You can hear it at the Hammer Museum courtyard April 5 and 12, in a performance that also involves a swarm of those stick figure - shaped inflatable balloons that gyrate in the wind outside car dealerships.



Steve Reich played in the premiere of In C, and developed his own spin on pattern-based music. Philip Glass heard Steve Reich's group, and formed his own ensemble to work out ideas about repetitive composition. Glass eventually became a prolific composer of operas and film music, and Reich's Music for 18 Musicians is one of the last century's masterpieces.



A festival highlight will be a semi-staged concert version of Glass' 1984 opera the CIVIL warS at Disney Hall on April 17 and 19. "It's an abstract, surrealistic take on the idea of civil wars, of people turning on themselves," conductor Grant Gershon says. "There's kind of an underlying current of sadness and remorse in both the poetry and the music."

Like Glass' Einstein on the Beach, CIVIL warS is similar in its "hypnotic quality, very much like the trance-like states [experienced] in Northern Indian classical music, taking you into a whole different perception of time," Gershon says.



Related Location

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets