Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

In defence of minimalism


Much that I read castigates Minimalism as a musical form. Those who deplore it point to its simplicity and repetitiveness. This is true. But there are good reasons for the fact that the form has persisted for so long and has been embraced by so many composers. Those who do not find themselves in accord with Minimalism miss, I think, the point. The very simplicity is to my mind what appeals. There is much joy to be found in the music.

Take a piece I am about to post, Peter Michael Hamel – Organum. I find the music joyful and stirring. The motifs are surely those we have always known going back to the beginnings of Minimalism in the ’60s and early ’70s. Hammel’s composition has much that resembles Riley’s organ music yet sounds fresh and not derivative. This particular recording, the one being posted, is played on an aspirated organ and not an electric one as Riley always used. No instrument sounds like the organ in grandeur though listening to the instrument for too long can get tiring.

I had thought as I begin composing for myself that there is a paucity of musical ideas in the music currently being composed or played. This seems particularly true of Post Rock where bands are hard distinguish, one from another.

But I am wrong. If one goes back to previous eras, the Romantic. for example, there are the same motifs written by composer in work after work, theirs or some other composer. I suppose we were spoilt coming up in the Sixties. Rock bands were so creative in their ability to write and play utterly glorious music. It would be invidious to mention any particular band here. In addition, we had wide access to recordings of the music written around the turn of the twentieth century. No musical era could possibly follow such a period of fecundity. It is simply not possible. The times were thought to be auspicious. And certainly they were. The ways of life as it had been known for thousands of years was changing and there likely will ever be any going back. The changes taking place through the 1890’s to 1910’s would see changes in transporation and communications that to say have transformed the world we live in is to simply understate the case.

Both communication and transport relied priorly on the horse. Now that we live without horses and live instead with fossil fired transport and wireless and all that has derived from it we continue to move further and further away from those times.

What we have now more than anything else is complexity. Daily the world seems to get more and more complicated.

Maybe this is the appeal of Minimalism. Its simplicity. We don’t have to listen to music which is aurally and intellectually demanding. Music speaks to our inner selves. It is there that we want peace.

We will not find it anywhere else.

Malcolm D B Munro
Saturday 26 August, 2017

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Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

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