"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." - (Possibly) Elvis Costello.
The name is Nick, and this is a music blog; I run a collaborative writing blog, and I can also be reached here. I'm an average musician, a bad writer and a worse lover. Still, I struggle on, mostly thanks to music.
***Stay a while, and see if our tastes overlap.
Philip Glass (with poetry by Samuel M. Johnson) - Knee Play 5 (from Einstein On The Beach),
Minimalist music is an originally American genre of experimental or Downtown music named in the 1960s based mostly in consonant harmony, steady pulse (if not immobile drones), stasis or gradual transformation, and often reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units such as figures, motifs, and cells. It may include features such as additive process and phase shifting.
Minimalism is one of the weirder areas of music - it’s not ‘classical’ (though there’s a strong classical influence) and it’s not ‘modern’ (though some of the best modern artists have, again, been heavily influenced by it). It’s not for everyone, but for some it’s like nothing else.
So why am I posting it?
Well, I like for you to think of me as your musical education, only more hilarious. You’re welcome.
On a more serious note, it’s also because of the way that music is these days. Music has become so genre-fied, so pidgeonholed and compartmentalised that it’s easy to become trapped in lo-fi indie rock or acoustic folk-pop or marxist post-punk or leftist rap or Austrian baroque or… So break free, then, and listen to something totally different.
You’ve probably heard Philip Glass before without realising; he’s written scores for everything from The Truman Show to The Hours. Arguably the most “listenable” of minimalist composers, he uses a basic chord pattern and loops melodies over the top to make wonderful, soaring music. Einstein On The Beach is an opera, based on the life of Albert Einstein. It’s not an opera in the traditional sense, though; the whole thing lasts about five hours with no interval (though the audience is allowed to come and go as they please), the play includes five “Knee Plays” intended to join the scenes together as a whole. While I’ve only listened to excerpts of the opera, overwhelmingly my favorite piece is the fifth knee play.
It’s weird, yes (counting chants and people talking over each other, anyone?) and yet there’s something profound about the piece - some secret, some piece of knowledge that will only reveal itself through careful listening.
And then the violin kicks in.
It’s odd and it’s different, but it’s also brilliant. And those three words, for me, sums up the best artists and musicians and composers since, well, the start of music.
Give it a listen. See what you think.