Minimal Talent


Stageband was interested to read the following on the spiritus-temporis web-site

"... it is easy music to find annoying, due to the repetition, perceived lack of complexity, or rigidity of process music."

So what is process music? you may ask, let's get it from the horses mouth...

"Music as a Gradual Process," by Steve Reich

The distinctive thing about musical processes is that they determine all the note-to-note (sound-to-sound) details and the over all form simultaneously. (Think of a round or infinite canon.)

Ok, I'm thinking..

I am interested in perceptible processes. I want to be able to hear the process happening throughout the sounding music.

Well, try .. .. listening?

To facilitate closely detailed listening a musical process should happen extremely gradually.

So you mean play it slower?

Performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles:

Pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest;

Turning over an hour glass and watching the sand slowly run through the bottom;

Placing your feet in the sand by the ocean's edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them.

That wasn't a normal cigarette, was it, Steve...

Though I may have the pleasure of discovering musical processes and composing the musical material to run through them, once the process is set up and loaded it runs by itself.

Oh the loneliness of the long distance er, process....

Material may suggest what sort of process it should be run through (content suggests form), and processes may suggest what sort of material should be run through them (form suggests content). If the shoe fits, wear it.

(content suggests bullshit)

As to whether a musical process is realized through live human performance or through some electro-mechanical means is not finally the main issue. One of the most beautiful concerts I ever heard consisted of four composers playing their tapes in a dark hall. (A tape is interesting when it's an interesting tape.)

... and a paragraph, Steve, is interesting when it's an interesting paragraph.
Stageband prefers the following concise summary by Ian MacDonald

The truth is that Minimalism is the passionless, sexless and emotionally blank soundtrack of the Machine Age, its utopian selflessness no more than an expression of human passivity in the face of mass-production and The Bomb. A kind of organised underachievement, its characteristic pulse-rhythm is an artificial substitute for the energy of conviction and its 'effects' due not to any effort from artist or audience, but to a negative process of deliberate self-denial. As a music without focus or hierarchy, it's also without goal or struggle, as inert as the pre-planned corporate lifestyle for which it is the perfect accompaniment. From hippie to yuppie, Minimalism is a drip-feed pseudo-art for cultural bottle-babies.

Ian MacDonald - Minimalism and the Corporate Age - in his book The People's Music.


You can read the complete Steve Reich article Here