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Normal Amounts of Time

from Friday, August10th of the year2007.

Wow, so did everybody read this article in the Times about Minimalism? It’s a weirdly formatted article with playlists and little explanations by their entire stable of critics which I think probably works better in print. Actually, my favorite part of the whole bit was Bernard Holland’s brief explanation, “Minimalism is a musical art that says very few things over long periods of time. This is in opposition to music that takes a long time to say many things (Mahler), music that says very little in normal amounts of time (Saint-Saëns) or music that says a great deal in practically no time at all (Webern).”

puppet.jpgIn many senses, pre-1981 minimalist music is about structure and process above all else: imagine puppets made only out of sticks. 1981, the year in which I was born, is the year of Reich’s Tehillim, Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi score, and Adams’s Harmonium. Those three works, I think, conveniently usher in something like Minimalism 2.0, where you begin to see various simple fabrics draped over the simple structural lines. As the Times article points out, these composers have all somehow become great dramatic composers (some more explicitly than others; Steve Reich, arguably the least prolific, is not really all about the opera house, but his 1993 The Cave is one of the most moving pieces of music that I can think of. It is also wildly discounted on iTunes and you should buy it Right This Second.)

Here is one of the friskier choral numbers from The Cave:

[audio:10 Genesis XXI.mp3]
Steve Reich The Cave Genesis XXI

So Ed and Chad have arrived for a visit and road trip; I’m sort of a lousy host because I’m furiously trying to get as much done of this album as possible. We did, though, go to Þingvellir national park yesterday, which is this insane crack in the earth’s crust where Viking Parliament was (and where all major state functions still happen). Here is Ed up on the crack’s lip:


Tomorrow night is this big sacred music festival. I am conducting an older piece of mine called A Good Understanding which is not a piece I have ever had to perform before. It’s slightly harder than I thought, but the singers and musicians are great, and the children’s choir is hysterical because it’s basically teenage Icelandic girls, a far cry from the 9-year old trebles for whom it was written! It’s great to hear the sounds of biblical English sung in Icelandic accents, too; the vowels are so much more severe and the consonants more covenant-defining.