Minimalism and Pop: influence, reaction, consequences

Authored by: Jonathan W. Bernard

The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409435495
eBook ISBN: 9781315613260
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042556


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The impetus for this chapter stems from some remarks I made, more or less in passing, in an article published a decade ago: 1 1

This chapter is a substantially revised version of a keynote address first given at the First International Conference on Minimalist Music (31 August–2 September 2007), Bangor University, North Wales.

It is true that rock and minimalism have always seemed to have something in common: most obviously a steady and prominent pulse and a fascination with chords, the latter connection becoming potentially stronger as minimalist music became more tonal. Yet the original impetus for minimalism, despite the apparent resemblance to rock embodied in [Philip] Glass’s ensembles of electric organs and amplified soprano saxes, had little if anything to do with rock’s dependence on the establishment of grooves that remain unchanged, at least for the relatively short duration of a song. The rise of progressive rock in the 1970s, with its longer and more intricately ‘composed’ tracks, and the emergence of artists like Brian Eno, who has always displayed a keen interest in new music of all kinds, blurred this distinction somewhat but left it, I think, essentially intact. 2 2

Jonathan W. Bernard, ‘Minimalism, Postminimalism, and the Resurgence of Tonality in Recent American Music’, American Music, 21/3 (2003): pp. 128–9.

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