European Minimalism and the Modernist Problem

Authored by: Maarten Beirens

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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Although minimalist music has been on the whole associated with American composers, a large and diverse body of European music has evolved that fits into the same categories of minimalist and subsequently postminimalist tendencies. While from the current perspective the identification of many European composers with minimalism may seem clear enough, it is significant to take into account the difference between, on the one hand, composers who were clearly influenced by American developments and, on the other, those who developed similar reductive and repetitive musical strategies while being largely unaware of what was going on in the USA around the same time. Although the sounding results may appear to be very similar, the music-historical implications and aesthetic motivations have often been quite different. A composer may consciously adopt minimalist characteristics as a way of aligning their work with a clearly defined stylistic category. In contrast with such a deliberate ‘aesthetic stance’, the ‘minimalist’ label has often been attributed retrospectively to composers or specific compositions that appear to share some characteristics with the minimalist core repertoire, as commonly defined, regardless of any significant association between the work in question and minimalism at large.

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