Richard Wagner

– German opera Composer

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– Born in Leipzig

– Active political figure

– Music-cultural essayist


“Tristan und Isolde”

“Tristan und Isolde”


– 1857-59

– Pushed tonality to its limits through chromaticism

– Famous “Tristan chord”: modernist disintegration of tonality

  • unresolved tension
  • ambiguity of tonal center

Gustav Mahler

– 1860-1911

– Jewish Austrian composer

– Famous for epic symphonies

  • profoundly influenced by Wagner
  • “Wagernian scale”: length/size
  • Mahler expanded this further with “Symphony of a Thousand”

– Along with Strauss, acted as bridge b/w late Romanticism and early Modernism

– Early symphonies were “programmatics” –> 4th and onward were “absolute”

Symphony No. 1: “The Titan”

Symphony No. 1: “The Titan”

– 1888

– Movement 1:

  • Expansion/suspension of time
    • Where is the beat?
  • Programmatic (program music)
  • Pastoral
  • Sounds of nature: atmospheric hum, bird calls (cuckoo motive)
  • Fanfares (hunting horns)
  • Precise placement of players on/off stage
  • Cuckoo: first theme (falling interval connection)

Richard Strauss

– 1864-1911

– German composer

– Operas, lieder, orchestral works

– “Sprach Zarathustra”

– “Salome”

“Sprach Zarathustra”

– 1896

– Firmly tonal: example of Strauss harmonic origins

– Based on philosophical novel by Frederick Nietzsche

– In many movies



– 1905

– Based on Salome by Dorian Gray

Arnold Schoenberg


– 1874-1951

– Jewish-Austrian composer

– Father of atonal composition

  • One of most polemical figures of 20th century classical music

– “2nd Viennese School” with Berg and Webern

– “Emancipation of dissonance”

– “Freely atonal” period: 1908-23

  • Limitations (emergent atonal tonic) leaving burden of emancipation up to the conditioned ear
  • Sought a means of order to enable simpler, cleaner, musical textures

– Serialism:

  • 12 tone method
  • Dodecaphony: 12 pitches of the octave regarded as equal, no 1 pitch/tone/chord given emphasis as dominant
  • 12 tone row: set of all 12 pitches in no particular order
  • Considered atonal, but not “freely so”

– “Verklarte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”) 

– ” Five Pieces for Orchestra”: III. Farben

– “A Survivor from Warsaw”

“Verkarte Nacht”: Tranfigured Night

– 1899

– Earliest important work; for string sextet

– Inspired by poem of same name by German poet Richard Dehmel

– Heavy influence of Wagner

– Championed by Mahler, but ill-recieved by public 

– Sampled in “Hidden Place” by Bjork

” Five Pieces for Orchestra”: III. Farben

– “Summer Morning by a Lake: Chord Colors”

 – Klangfarbenmelodie: tone-color melody

– Develops composer’s notion of “total chromaticism”, considered atonal

  • “Emancipation of dissonance” ;

Alban Berg

– 1885-1935

– Austrian composer

– Student of Schoenberg’s, member of 2nd Viennese School

– “Romantic” one

– Famous for operas and violin concerto, and orchestral and chamber music

– Embedded “wisps” of tonality/romanticism

  • In context of serial work (rows, expression)

– “Three Pieces for Orchestra”: III. Marsch 

– “Violin Concerto” 

“Three Pieces for Orchestra”: III. Marsch 

– 1915 

– Mahlerian Romanticism with elements of chaos, extreme orchestration

– Atonal

– 8 tones in brass

“Violin Concerto” 

– 1935

– For violin soloist and orchestra

– Best known and most widely performed instrumental work

– Rules of serialism implemented mostly loosely

– Opening theme based on fundamental nature of solo instrument 

Anton Webern 

– 1883-1945

– Austrian composer

– Member of 2nd Viennese School

  • “Strict” one: firmest stance implementing Schoenberg’s techniques

– Most influential of the three w/r/t the advent of post-war “total serialism”

– Famous for sparseness/brevity of works (opposite extreme of Mahler)

– “Five Pieces of Orchestra”: III. Sehr Langram und Aussert Ruhig


– Focuses on a suggestion and an atmosphere, not an emotion

Claude Debussy;

– 1862-1918

– French compoaser

– Inspired by Symbolist literary movement in France

– Influenced by Wagner, but distanced self

– “Nonfunctional harmony”, alternative scales, non-Western influences;

– “Prelude a lapres-midi d’un faune” (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” 


“Five Pieces for Orchestra”: III. Sehr Langsam und Ausserst Ruhig

– 1911-13

– Economic use of material (every second essential)

– Atonal

– “Angular”: sudden peaks/valleys

– Elements of pointilism (music as points)

– Extended techniques (ex. flutter tongue)

 “Prelude a lapres-midi d’un faune” (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) 

– 1894

– Symphonic poem for orchestra inspired by poen by Stephanie Mallarme

– Use of chromatic and whole-tone scales

– Considering turning point in history of music

  • Flute of the faun 

Maurice Ravel 

– 1875-1937

– French composer

– Influenced by Debussy and faun

– Famous for variety of works from solo to large orchestral, including ballet

– One of greatest orchestrators in history of Western art music

– “Daphne et. Chloe”: “Lever du Jour” 

– “Bolero” 

“Daphne et. Chloe: ‘Lever du Jour'”

– 1912

– Ballet commisioned by Serghei Diaghilev and premiered by Ballet Russes

– Symphonie choreographique 

– Depicts a sunrise (programmatic) through lush harmonies and orchestral effects 


– 1928

– Ravel’s most famous work

– Repeating snare drum rhythm from beginning to end

– Transparent structure

– Constant re-orchestration: evolution of color over time


– Early 20th century art movement of the European avant-garde;

– Reaction against horrors of WWI

– Rejected reason and logic; prized nonsense, irrationality, and intuition;

– Radical-leftist politics: anti-war, anti-bourgeios;

– Public gatherings, demonstrations

– Starting point for performance art, postmodernism, etc.;

– Laid foundation for Surrealism;


– Early 1920’s artistic-cultural movement manifesto written by French writer and poet Andre Breton in 1924

– Dreams, automatic writing 

– Heavily influenced by Dadaism, Sigmund Freud, Hegel, Marx, Benjamin

– “This is not a pipe” piece

– Salvador Dali


Marcel Duchamp 

– 1887-1968

– French artist often associated with Dadaism and Surrealism, but categorization tenuous

– Abandoned Impressionism at early age: it had nothing left to offer

– Challenged conventional thought through subversion and provocation 

  • Rejected art in absence of thought
  • Forced confrontation through subjective

– “Readymades” (objet trouve) 

Eric Satie 


– French composer, member of early 20th century avant-garde

– Significant influence on Ravel

– Collaborated with members of Dada and Surrealism

– Precursor to minimalism 

– “Gymnopedie No. 1”

– “Vexations” 

“Gymnopedie No. 1”

– 1888

– Solo piano

– Gentle wandering, unusual for classical music of the day

– Static quality, lack of development

– Precursor to ambient work



– Solo piano, 1 pg. of music

– Published posthumously 

– “…play theme 840 times” 

  • Radical commitment to repetition 

Igor Stravinsky 

– 1882-1971

– Russian composer of energetic, visceral music

– Repetition, syncopation, fragmentation

– International fame with 3 ballets commisioned by Sergei Diaghilev

– Folk music

– “L’oiseau de feu” (Firebird)

– “Le Sacre du printemps” (Rite of Spring) 

“L’oiseau de feu” (Firebird) 

– 1910

– Ballet based on Russian folktales

– Bursts of percussive energy, ebb and flow/sudden jerks of momentum 

“Le sacre du printemps” (Rite of Spring)

– 1913

– Ballet with choreography by notorious dancer Nijinsky

– Premiere caused a riot

– Would become icon of new music and codify Stravinsky’s reputation as one side of modernist coin (Schoenberg as oppositional other side)

– Interest in Russian/Lithuanian music

– “Primitivism”, musical fragmentation

– Bitonality

Antonin Dvorak;

– 1841-1904

– Czech composer

– Influenced by Beethoven, Wagner, Schubert

– “Fullest recreation of a national idiom with that of a symbolic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding ways of using them”

  • Focused on folk of Moravia and native Bohemia

– Left Europe to direct Conservatory of Music in NYC in 1892

– “Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’: II. Largo”;

Symphony No. 9 “From the New World”: II. Largo

– “New World Symphony”

– Influenced by folk music of African Americans and Native Americans

Bela Bartok;

– 1841-1904

– One of Hungary’s greatest composers 

Ethnomusicality: study of music that emphasizes cultural, social, material, etc. instead of isolated souns component

– Driving kinetic energy and use of folk elements

– “Piano Concerto No. 2: I. Allegro, II. Adagio”

– “Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta: IV. Allegra Molto”

Piano Concerto No. 2: I. Allegro, II. Adagio

– 1930-1931

– For piano soloist/orchestra

– Most popular/most difficult pieces

– 1st movement shows driving kinetic energy, 2nd shows orchestration

Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta: IV. Allegro Molto

– 1936

– Instrumentation: ..includes piano

– Uses folk elements

– In famous movies

“A Survivor from Warsaw”

– 1947

– For narrator, men’s chorus, and orchestra

– Narration depicts memories of a survivor from Warsaw ghetto during WWII

– Commisioned by the intended to pay tribute to the Holocaust victims of the German Third Reich

“Variations for Piano”

– 1936

– 12 tone piece for solo piano in 3 movements

– Inspired by symmetry in this work (musical palindromes)

– Disjunct expression; each tone a musical event (pointilism)

“Violin Concerto” (Berg)

– 1935

– Berg

– Best known, most widely performed instrumental work

– Rules of serialism implemented more loosely

– Opening theme based on fundamental nature of solo instrument

– Composed in 4 parts; last of which ends with violin in extreme high register

Charles Ives

– 1874-1954

– American composer, arguably first Experimentalist

– One of most radical composers of 20th centure, but largely ignored during his time

– Inspired by Transcendentalists: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau

– Patriotic (Nationalism)

– American popular/church music fused with European art music

The Unanswered Question

“The Unanswered Question”

– 1906

– One of first great works of American classical music, yet unpublished until 1940

– A “collage in 3 distinct layers” : each with own tempo and key

– Trumpt asks question, flutes answer

– Distinct layers -; polytonality

Aaron Copland

– 1900-1990

– Most well known American classical composer, popular during his lifetime

– Studied with Nadia Boulanger

– Famous for ballets and orchestral suites incorporating Amerian folk and jazz

– Promoted “American sound”: the pastoral/the big city, American cultural heritage

– Pro Socialist/Society political learnings

– Piano VariationsAppalachian Spring

“Piano Variations”

– 1930

– Aaron Copland

– For solo piano, considered “first work of genius”

– Combined influences of 2nd Viennese School with Jazz

– Used at parties to empty the room, guaranteed in 2 minutes

“Appalachian Spring”

– 1944

– Aaronl Copland

– Ballet for chamber orchestra

– Written in collaboration with choreographer Martha Graham

– Evokes American Pastoral ideal 

Art under Stalin

– Years of collectivization, industrialization and famine

– How to placate masses? Promise of new comforts and freedoms

– Role of the artist: art as a reflection of the way things are, dissemination through art

– Artists as a population: highly individualistic, anti comformist, prone to reaction against the way things are

– Reformation of art: expression of the individual, in service of the Union, “Formalism”, use of secret police 


Dmitri Shosatakovich 


– 1906- 1975

– Soviet Russian composer

– Influenced by Gustav Mahler, Sergei Prokofiev, and Igor Stravinsky

– Famous for opera Lady Macbeth, symphonies, chamber music, and film scores

– Experienced periods of both great acclaim and persecution under Stalin’s regime

– Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Symphony No. 5 in D Minor

“Symphony No. 4 in C minor”

– 1936

– Dmitri Shostakovich

– Premiere cancelled half way through rehearsal process: publically withdrawn by Shostakovich

– Not premiered until 1961 (8 years after Stalin’s death)

– Contains strong elements of satire (eg. military march)

– Tonal but saturated in dissonance

– More overtly progressive (modernist) than Fifth Symphony

“Symphony No. 5 in D Minor”

– 1937

– Dmitri Shostakovich

– Intended to mark political rehabilitation, at least to coming up to party expectations

– 4 movement form; more tonal, thematic material more accessible than 4th Symphony

– Premiere was huge success: standing ovation for 30 min

– Triumphant finale: Stalinist victory hymn or parody of one?

Richard Wagner

– 1850 pamphlet Das Judentum in der Musik (Jewry in Music): protested Jewification of German music, proposed than Jews undergo “destruction and self-annhilation” 

– Wagner’s Bayreuth: point of convergence for anti-Semites, Aryan protests, and social Darwinists

Hitler and Music

– Worshipped Wagner from early age: developed close ties to Wagner family; claimed a performance of Wagner’s Rienzi inspired him to enter politics

– Nazi Regime: Reich Culture Chamber – all German artists required to register for membership, promoted Aryan artists whose work was consistent with Nazi ideology

– Reich Music Chamber: Nazification of music

Olivier Messiaen

– French composer

– One of most influential composers and teachers of the 20th century: taught Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, etc.

– Famous for study and inclusion of bird calls in music, Quartet for the End of time, and role in emergence of Total Serialism

– Systematic organization to combine complex rhythm with a wide range of harmony, both tonal and atonal

– Devoutly religious

– Quatuor pour la fin du temps, Quatre etudes de rythme

“Quator pour la fin du temps”

– 1941

– Olivier Messiaen

– A piece in 8 movements, written for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano

– Inspired by text from the Book of Revelation

– Composed in a German POW camp during WWII

Quatre etudes de rythme

– 1941

– “Mode of values and intensities”, for solo piano

– First piece with systematic organization of pitch, duration dynamicsm, and mode of attack (timbre)

– Not yet Total Serialism, but considered the springboard for it

– Order -; row -; serialism: 36 pitches, 24 durations, 12 attacks, 7 dynamics

Total Serialism

– “Integral serialism” 

– An extension of Shoenberg’s techniques to most/all parameters of sound 

– Messiaen “values and intensities”, but with serial ordering

– Individual note: multidimensional “sculpture”, expressivity in and of itself

– As a response to WWII: role of art, potential implications of decisions as artists

Pierre Boulez

– French composer and conductor

– Figurehead of Total Serialism in France

– Fierce proponent of Schoenbergian legacy; severe critic of conservation in contemporary music (severe critic of anything not in line with Total Serialism)

– Enormously influential as post-war conductor of contemporary music, Head of Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM)

– Le marteau sans maitre

“Le marteau sans maitre”

– 1955

– Pierre Boulez

– “The Hammer without a Master”: setting of Surrealist poetry by Rene Char for chamber ensemble

– Unconventional instrumentation

– One of most important works of Total Serialist movement

– Continuing revision, elusive explanation..

Pierre Schaeffer

– French composer

– Originated musique concrete in early 1940’s: form of electroacoustic music that utilizes recorded sounds as compositional resources

– Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrete (GRMC) in Paris

– Cinq etudes de bruits 

“Cinq etudes de bruits”

– 1948

– “Five studies of noise”: earliest exmaples of musique concrete

– “Study of railways”: recorded sounds of trains stitched together in a piece

– Premiered via broadcast Concert de bruits: marked a change in musical dissemination (no longer the concert hall)

Concrete vs. Elektronische

-Elektronische: another form of electroacoustic music, but contrasted sharply with musique concrete, along both aesthetic and ideological lines

– Is synthesized entirely from electronically produced sounds: electronic vs. concrete (“real world” sources

– Emerged from Electronic Music Studio of WDR, Cologne in 1953

Art in Post-War America (NYC)

– “The New York School”

  – Painting:

    – Abstract Expressionism: Mark Rothko, Willem de    

      Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Robert


    – Neo-Dadaism: Jasper Johns

  – Structural Film: Tony Conrad (The Flicker 1965),

    Michael Snow, Andy Warhol (Sleep 1963, pop art)

  -; American Experimentalism: John Cage, Morton

    Feldman, Earl Brown, David Tudor, Christian Wolff

John Cage

– American composer, theorist, writer and visual artist

– Teachers included Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg

– Perhaps most radical composer of 20th century: “indeterminancy”, silence, performance art, unconventional treatments of instruments, electroacoustic music, graphic notation

– Influenced by Eastern philosophies, studied Zen Buddhism

– Challenged assumptions about musicianship, labor, intentionality and self, limits of what can be called music

– Sonatas and Interludes, Music for Piano

“Sonatas and Interludes”

– 1946-1948

– John Cage

– 16 sonatas and 4 interludes

– Intended to express the 8 permanent emotions of the rasa Indian tradition

– For prepared piano: 45 notes prepared with screws, bolts, rubber, plastic, nuts, and an eraser; 2-3 hours of preparation

“Music for Piano”

– 1952-1962

– John Cage

– 85 compositions for prepared piano

– Translate imperfections in paper into sound by means of a variety of chance procedures (eg. I Ching, dice)

– Music for Piano I: only pitches are specified

  – Durations left to performer, set time allowed for completion

– Music for Piano II: imperfections determine pitches, but durations specified

– Music for Piano III onward: number of events determined by I Ching

Morten Feldman

– American composer

– Deeply influenced by Webern: stripping down to essentials

– Deeply influential on future AE composers

– Took great interest in Persian rugs: patterns, small dye lots, (a)symmetry 

– Explored memory disorientation: expanded duration (scale), constant re-patterning, rejected monolithic narrative, “secret information” of European tradition

Why Patterns?

“Why Patterns?”


– 1978

– For flute, percussion, and piano

– Directionality of music ambiguous

– Slowly shifting patterns (pitch, rhythm, timbre)

– Terraced dynamics

– Rhythmic (ir)regularity 

Karlheinz Stockhausen

– German composer

– Arguable most influential composer of post WWII European avant-garde

– Figurehead of both the Total Serialist and Elektronische Musik movements in Germany

– Prodigiously inventive: concrete vs. elektronische; investigations into spatialization, amplification, electronic sound synthesis, etc.

– Influence extended far beyond European avant-garde

– Klavierstuck X, Gesang der Junglinge, Kontakte


– 1958-1960

– Karlheinz Stockhausen

– Piano, percussion, and tape 

– Produced in WDR Cologne’s Studio for Electronic Music


“Klavierstuck X”

– 1961

– Karlheinz Stockhausen

– “Piano Piece 10”

– Reconceptualizes the piano & its identity: percussive energy, glissando, cluster, pedal resonance

– “Gesture” replaces melody: physicality of sound, physical phenomena

“Gesang der Junglinge”

– 1955-1956

– Karlheinz Stockhausen

– “Song of the Youths”, for tape

– “First masterpiece of electronic music” (Bryann Simms)

– Produced in WDR Cologne’s Studio for Electronic Music

– Synthesizes musique concrete and elektronische musik as complementary elements: integration of electronic sound with the human voice

– Text from a biblical story in the book of Daniel 

Iannis Xenakis

– Greek composer, architect-engineer

– Post-war European avant-garde

– Student of Olivier Messiaen: who encouraged Xenakis to pursue affinity for higher level math in his compositions

– Pioneer of stochastic music: implemented set theory, game theory, and Markov chains; research was influential on development of electroacoustic music

– Spatialization of sound, players’ locations

– Music was capable of tremendous energy: eg. significant contributions to percussion repertoire 

– Metastasis



– Iannis Xenakis

– For orchestra

– Inspired by Einstein’s view of time and composer’s memories of the sounds of war

– Explored sound mass as a focus of attention: 61 players, no two parts the same

– Use of stochastic processes: physics modeling applied to sound, statistical distribution of points on a plane

Gyorgy Ligeti

– Hungarian composer

– Highly innovative/individualistic

– European avant-garde, but no “membership”

– Joined Stockhausen at the Cologne Studio after fleeing Hungary during 1956 Soviet-supressed revolution

– Instrumental works inspired by sounds he heard: texture, clusters, sound mass, micropolyphony

– Attained international fame for Kubrick’s use of his work in 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut

– Musica ricercata, Atmospheres

Musica Ricercata

– 1953

– Gyorgy Ligeti 

– “Researched” music in pursuit of the composer’s voice

– A cycle of 11 pieces for piano: macro structure

– 1st piece: motoric rhythm, energy, sycopation, heirarchy (tonic dominant)

– 2nd piece: establishing the familiar and the alien, a new kind of tonality  


– 1961

– Gyorgy Ligeti

– For orchestra

– Focuses on dense sound textures rather than melody or rhythm

– Opening: broad dynamic range of swell and decay

– Over time: individualization of parts -> micropolyphony 

Earle Brown

– American composer

– Closely associated with John Cage, Morton Feldman, and other American Experimentalists

– Influenced members of the NY School (notably Jackson Pollock and Alexander Calder)

– Significant contributions to the development of graphic notation

– Work with open forms was great source of inspiration to Downtown NY scene in 1980’s: fixed musical modules whose order is left open to choice

– December 1952

“December 1952”

– 1952

– Earle Brown

– For open instrumentation

– Landmark piece in the history of graphic notation of music: score consists of horizontal and vertical lines with varying width distribution 

– Role of the performer: interpret visually and translate the graphical information 

Conlon Nancarrow

– American composer

– Drew early influence from the Jazz music of Art Tatum and Earl Hines, and from the rhythms of Indian music

– Almost all musical output for player piano

– Explored the humanly impossible, with great energy and rhythmic complexity beyond that of any other composer

– Fought in Lincoln Brigade, fled to Mexico to avoid persecution for Communist Affiliations

– Composed in almost complete isolation from 1940: music achieved international fame only at end of life

– Studies #1-30

“Studies #1-30”

– 1948-1960

– For player piano

– Expored levels of virtuosity and rhythmic complexity impossible for humans to perform

Alvin Lucier

– American composer

– Studied with Lukas Foss and Aaron Copland at Tanglewood

– Exposure to work of John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and David Tudor

– Along with La Monte Yong, FLuxus, etc, exemplifies post-Cage tradition of American Experimentalism

– Explores acoustic phenomena and auditory perception (science): resonance of sounds, transmission of sound through physical media, phase interference between closely tuned pitches

– I Am Sitting In a Room 

“I am Sitting In a Room”

– 1969

– Alvin Lucier’s most famous work

– Process vs. product

– Meta-level commentary (self-reference)

– Observing phenomenological results of itertative process: radical commitment to a single idea, “just” speech and sound of room 


– Reaction vs. chronological exclusion

– Principle concerns: 

  – Subjectivity

  – Deconstruction: of presuppositions and ideology, hierarchal values, frames of reference

  – Deconstruction -> consideration -> invitation

  – Availability, reconceptualization 

Brief History of Composer and Voice

  1. Lingua Franca: Baroque, Classical Periods
  2. Individual identity: Romantic Period (the Self, one’s country)
  3. Primacy of Invention: Modernism – urgency to do something new
  4. Stylistic Pluralism: Post WWI and onward
  5. “Removal” of Self: Cage, Xenakis – delegating choice to chance procedures/complex algorithms
  6. Polystylism/Collage/Plunderphonics: Post-Modernism – different languages explored by a single artist within a single work

Alfred Schnittke

– Soviet composer (German-Russian heritage)

– Strongly influenced by Dmitri Shostakovich

– Coined term “polystylism” for approach to composition: pastiche vs. quotation

– One of most influential figures in Postmodernist music

– Well known for string quartets and ballets

– Concerto Grosso #1

“Concerto Grosso #1”

– 1977

– Alfred Schnittke

– For 2 violins, harpsichord, prepared piano and strings

– Instrumentation and form was not arbitrary 

– “Form of baroque music”

– Polystylist examples

John Oswald

– Canadian composer, media artist, dancer

– Best known for postmodernist electronic music (Plunderphonics): form of sound collage, making new music out of previously existing recordings

– Has faced repeated threats of legal action for use of other artists’ works (Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Stravinsky, Michael Jackson)

– Plunderphonics (Velocity, Dab)



– John Oswald

– For tape/computer, etc; CD’s commerically available

– Velocity (1994): pushes limits of human perception through minimal duraction of samples

– Dab (1990, by “Alien Chasm Jock”): Bad by Michael Jackson backwards; character portrait (sound collectin as creative/aesethetic decision)


– Work is set out to expose the essence/identity of a subject through alienating all non-essential forms, features, or concepts

– A reaction against complexity of Total Serialism and cultural elitism of European avant-garde (Modernism)

– A return to: repetition, clarity, immediacy, tonal harmony (influence of African and Indian classical music)

– Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams

Terry Riley

– American composer

– Pioneer of Minimalist movement: major influence on Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams, etc

– Deeply influenced by Indian classical music, as well as John Cage, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, etc. 

– Explored tape loops, microtonality/alternative tuning systems, open instrumentation, self-organizing structure

– In C

“In C”

– 1964

– Terry Riley

– For unspecified performers: “group of 35 desired”

– Repeating C: on piano or percusssion instrument

– 53 short, numbered musical phrases, all in C: may be repeated an arbitrary number of times, each musician can pick which phrase to play

Steve Reich

– American composer

– One of foremost practitioners of American Minimalism

– First “awakening” to experimentalism came upon recieving a copy of the score to Cage’s 4’33”

– Known for exploration of repetition, phasing, and gradual processes

– Come Out, Piano Phase

“Come Out”

– 1966

– Steve Reich

– For tape: commissioned for a benefit for the retrial of the Harlem Six

– Piece derived from one clip: “…come out to show them” 

– Repetition of phrase: loss of meaning/lingual function over time

– Phasing: emergent sub-melodies/rhythms


Piano Phase

– 1967

– Steve Reich

– For 2 pianos

– His first attempt to bring phasing technique to live performance

– Rapid 12-note figure played on both pianos: in unison, then one begins to accelerate gradually

– Music consists of results of applying phasing process to intitial 12-note melody
– This and Come Out are examples of process music 

Philip Glass

– American composer

– Heavily influenced by Terry Riley, Steve Reich, but rejects Minimalist label

– “Composer of music with repetitive structures”

– Most famous living composer of contemporary classical music

– Widely recognized in mainstream culture: television ads (BMW); TV shows (Battlestar Gallectica); Art and Hollywood films (Candyman, The Truman Show, The Illusionist, Watchmen); video games (Grand Theft Auto)

– Broad influence on pop music culture, Hollywood film scoring

– Einstein on the Beach 

“Einstein on the Beach”

– 1975

– Philip Glass

– Directed by radical theatrical producer, Robert Wilson

– Glass’ first, and longest, opera: 5 hours without intermission

– 1st of 3 operas in portrait trilogy

– No characters, plot, or narrative

– 3 main scenes: Einstein’s hypotheses about theory of relativity and unified field theory