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Minimalism, Technology and Electronic Music

Glover, Richard (2013) Minimalism, Technology and Electronic Music. In: Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Post-Minimalist Music. Ashgate, pp. 161-180. ISBN 9781409435495

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      Abstract

      The adoption of both recording technology and electronically generated sounds has led to new explorations of ideas initially conceived for acoustic instruments, and has itself generated radically pioneering concepts. The chapter identifies and explores the various progressive uses of technology since the rise of minimalism in the 1960s, and how technology has helped shaped the notion of similarity and repetition in prominent minimalist composers' approaches. The paradox of how technology has become a dominant feature for certain composers, yet steered others towards a focus on acoustic instruments (which provide a more humanistic quality) with technology acting in a supporting role, is discussed throughout.

      An example of the different consequences technology has had is exemplified in the experiences of La Monte Young and Steve Reich. Whilst Young's instrumental work with the Theatre of Eternal Music led to the electronically-generated sine tones of the Dream House, Reich's experiences with tape loops and the Phase Shifting Pulse Gate encouraged him to return to working with acoustic instruments. His gradual transition from an interest in technology within the performance context to a dissatisfaction is explored, and how the technologies of later works rendered a stronger sense of humanity because of this.

      Repetitive minimalism relies heavily on the well-documented early studio experiments of Reich and Terry Riley with tape loops in both Europe and the US. The chapter investigates the various influences between them, and how two composers who are all too often grouped together held significantly differing approaches to the use of technology in their music.

      Other areas which tend to be more neglected are also discussed within the chapter, such as James Tenney's early process-based work with tape and computer compositions which parallels mainstream minimalist music in simplicity of structures designed to focus perception upon surface detail. The pioneering work involving technology in live performance from Alvin Lucier is also examined in relation to simplicity in process, alongside more recent work from Chiyoko Szlavnics and Peter Adriaansz.

      Sustained tone minimalism since Young has developed significantly with the use of electronic means; amplification, the introduction of sine tone manipulation, synthesisers and software development have all enabled composers who are interested in gradual parametric change to gain superior control over their material. The music of Charlemagne Palestine, Phill Niblock, and Eliane Radigue is discussed in detail, in relation to the composers’ various employment of technology, their outlooks on its performative capabilities and its evolving influence over their compositional approach.

      Recent trends in minimalist electronic music are also explored, with artists such as Richard Chartier, Ryoji Ikeda and snd providing a focal point for discussion on the capabilities of digital processing. As well as outlining the capabilities of the new technologies, importance is given to how these technologies enable artists to develop on compositional concepts which have existed since the beginnings of minimalism.The tendencies towards extreme sparsity, use of digital silence and finer creative control over surface detail show how these artists’ work operates from within a minimalist lineage, but also expands the conceptual and experiential possibilities of recent digital technologies.

      Item Type: Book Chapter
      Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
      M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
      Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
      Related URLs:
      Depositing User: Richard Glover
      Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2012 16:54
      Last Modified: 20 May 2014 13:24
      URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/16269

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