Monday, February 06, 2012

Artistic Consumption Log, Jan. 30, 2012 - Feb. 5, 2012: "Sudden Obsession With Minimalism" Edition

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—During this past week, I suddenly found myself—thanks mostly to the Philip Glass 75th-birthday concert that I attended at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday—developing a fascination with musical minimalism.

After hearing Glass's latest symphony, his Ninth, at that concert (a pretty good piece, actually, though I found the accompanying work, Arvo Pärt's Lamentate, even more impressive), I decided to scour Spotify to see what other Glass works the streaming music service had in its library...and lo and behold, I discovered they had the complete 1993 recording of his seminal 1976 opera Einstein on the Beach. So I listened to some of it that night...and since then, I haven't been able to stop listening to bits and pieces of Einstein, finding myself strangely fascinated by the seemingly endless repetitions and variations. Say what you will about Glass's brand of minimalism, but his music somehow worms its way into your skull, whether you like it or not. I guess I kinda like it, because I haven't been able to listen to, or think about, much else this past week!

Then, thanks in part to both Jan Swafford's The Vintage Guide to Classical Music and Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise, I decided to search in Spotify's library for recordings of the work of some of Glass's minimalist contemporaries...which led me to the Bang on a Can recording of Terry Riley's groundbreaking 1964 work In C that I listened to as I came home from Juilliard's final John Cage concert Friday night. (Though In C is famously known as the first minimalist composition, it also embraces Cage's conception of "chance music" as part of its make-up, leaving instrumentation and length up to the performers while offering up 53 phrases and a set of performing instructions from which to fashion a performance. So it made for a good fit for post-Cage listening.) I also gave myself a brief taste of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, which I hope to get around to listening to in full sometime this coming week.

In short, I suddenly find myself on a serious modern-classical-music kick—so much so that even the emotionally devastating brilliance of Béla Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies, which I saw for the first time on Friday afternoon, seems but a dim memory now in the face of so many endlessly repeating musical arpeggios rippling through my mind. (But hey, speaking of minimalism: Tarr's latest and supposedly last film, The Turin Horse, opens this Friday...)

Here's the log (which I didn't have time this week to annotate properly, so this will be just a bare-bones list of things I saw/heard):

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)


Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Béla Tarr), seen at Walter Reade Theater in New York

The Forgiveness of Blood (2011, Joshua Marston), seen at Broadway Screening Room in New York

Bridesmaids (2011, Paul Feig), seen on DVD at home in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Pretty Poison (1968, Noel Black), seen at Film Forum in New York


Yes (2009, Pet Shop Boys)

Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1 (1952, Thelonious Monk)

"Sounds Re-Imagined: John Cage at 100":
Program II: Launching the Percussion Revolution, seen at Peter Jay Sharp Theater at The Juilliard School in New York
Program VI, seen at Alice Tully Hall in New York

American Composers Orchestra: Philip Glass 75th Birthday Concert, seen at Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall in New York

Terry Riley: In C (2001, Bang on a Can)

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