Jump to content
Mander Organs
Guest Roffensis

Philip Glass

Recommended Posts

Guest Roffensis

I have a CD of the late Donald Joyce playing some of Philip Glass's organ music, who is a minimalist composer. Don't go looking for great streams of Reger, it isn't there. it's actually pretty simple in terms of harmonic progressions etc, but in terms of effect, very interesting. I bought copies of two of his scores, Dance IV, something like 42 pages of Arpeggios in contrary motion and so on, but his "Mad Rush" I really like very much. Pretty sad, and it works excellently on the organ. The sort of stuff that you can literally sit and play from sight, but a difinite change from the usual.

 

I wonder if anyone else plays anything by him?

 

 

Richard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So he's written some organ music has he? I didn't know that.

 

Now perhaps forum members can help me out here. Can someone explain what exactly the value of minimalist music is?

 

I mean this seriously. I'm sure I must be missing something somewhere because all the examples I have heard have struck me as being superficial and trivial. As far as I have been able to make out all it involves is finding a short phrase with a nice sonority and repeating it ad nauseam with maybe odd changes every now and again to make do as an apology for a proper musical development. Forgive me, but a 10-yr old can do that (I did!) Scratch the surface of this stuff and there's nothing there. I remember years ago reading a review of Gorecki's 3rd which summed it up neatly: "There's not so much music here as meets the ears". As far as I can see this stuff is fine if all you want is to listen to a nice sound with your thumb in your bum and your mind in neutral, but where is the actual musical substance to engage the intellect?

 

Isn't this just music on a par with popular music - music to tickle the ears and nothing more - music for a dumbed down society? Fine if that's what floats your boat, but it sinks mine. For me this isn't anything to do with musical snobbery: it's purely an issue of what I find musically fulfilling.

 

So where am I going wrong?

 

I have to qualify the above by admitting that the pieces by John Tavener that I have heard have more to sustain the interest. I actually like some of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have to qualify the above by admitting that the pieces by John Tavener that I have heard have more to sustain the interest. I actually like some of it.

I would say the same of John Adams. My pianist son, who plays it, says that it's not really minimalist, and I suspect that's why it's more interesting.

 

Paul

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Roffensis

I did expect this sort of response! I do actually like his "Mad Rush" and think some of his music has a place. Some of it however I cannot be bothered with. John Adams is possibly a bit similar, not as repetitive. John Tavener is another I feel, who seems to have hit on some interesting progressions, and.........

 

 

It wont stop me playing some Glass in my recital this year though, that Mad Rush will be very nice to do. It's somehow quite meditative.

 

R

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Lee Blick
So he's written some organ music has he? I didn't know that.

 

Now perhaps forum members can help me out here. Can someone explain what exactly the value of minimalist music is?

 

I mean this seriously. I'm sure I must be missing something somewhere because all the examples I have heard have struck me as being superficial and trivial. As far as I have been able to make out all it involves is finding a short phrase with a nice sonority and repeating it ad nauseam with maybe odd changes every now and again to make do as an apology for a proper musical development. Forgive me, but a 10-yr old can do that (I did!) Scratch the surface of this stuff and there's nothing there. I remember years ago reading a review of Gorecki's 3rd which summed it up neatly: "There's not so much music here as meets the ears". As far as I can see this stuff is fine if all you want is to listen to a nice sound with your thumb in your bum and your mind in neutral, but where is the actual musical substance to engage the intellect?

 

Isn't this just music on a par with popular music - music to tickle the ears and nothing more - music for a dumbed down society? Fine if that's what floats your boat, but it sinks mine. For me this isn't anything to do with musical snobbery: it's purely an issue of what I find musically fulfilling.

 

So where am I going wrong?

 

I have to qualify the above by admitting that the pieces by John Tavener that I have heard have more to sustain the interest. I actually like some of it.

 

I love minimilist music. To me is it on a different plane than a lot of other classical music. It seems to focus more on harmony and rythmn and the subtle development of it rather than pretty tunes and the ego of the performer. It is easy to say it is dumbing down but much of 20th century comtemporary music was about breaking out from the expressions and strict musical forms of the previous century.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Try some Arvo Part (sorry - no accents here but you know who I mean)

 

AJJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have a CD of the late Donald Joyce playing some of Philip Glass's organ music, who is a minimalist composer. Don't go looking for great streams of Reger, it isn't there. it's actually pretty simple in terms of harmonic progressions etc, but in terms of effect, very interesting. I bought copies of two of his scores, Dance IV, something like 42 pages of Arpeggios in contrary motion and so on, but his "Mad Rush" I really like very much. Pretty sad, and it works excellently on the organ. The sort of stuff that you can literally sit and play from sight, but a difinite change from the usual.

 

I wonder if anyone else plays anything by him?

Richard.

I don't know Mad Rush but I do play the organ version (by Donald Joyce) of the conclusion of Act III of Satyagraha - a gentle piece and not too hard! I have the score of Dances II and IV but have never found the ability to maintain concentration for the whole 20 mins or so.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I love minimilist music. To me is it on a different plane than a lot of other classical music. It seems to focus more on harmony and rythmn and the subtle development of it rather than pretty tunes and the ego of the performer. It is easy to say it is dumbing down but much of 20th century comtemporary music was about breaking out from the expressions and strict musical forms of the previous century.

 

Interesting. I don't see where performer's ego comes into it, except with certain showmanship-oriented performers like Fox and to an extent Curley, and I don't see where pretty tunes come into it always either.

 

When thinking of 20th century contemporary music breaking out of chains, I always think of people like Peter Warlock, Ivor Gurney, Finzi to a degree and others who seem to have sought to achieve maximum emotional intensity from the fewest possible notes, a little like the definition of poetry I heard on the radio recently - the best possible words in the best possible order.

 

One of the most haunting and in some ways disturbing pieces I have ever heard is a three-minute song by Warlock called The Distracted Maid whose simple tune repeats four times, is based entirely on simple scales with hardly an accidental in sight, whose accompaniment grows from a simple scale to increasingly complex harmonies as the song progresses, yet seldom being consistently in more than two parts.

 

I wonder if there's a difference between stretching what is possible to achieve within boundaries, and disregarding them altogether. Last night I spent an extremely unhappy 3 hours rehearsing the Karl Jenkins Requiem and have to say I found no spirituatlity, intensity, interest, or even point to the vast majority of it. And yet it goes on for hours - well, probably 45 minutes, at a guess, using huge orchestral resources and obscure Japanese instruments. It will cost a fortune to put on and will doubtless sell out as Classic FM have it in heavy rotation. Contrast with, for example, Warlock's "The Curlew", which requires one tenor, one cor anglais, one flute and a string quartet, lasts no more than about ten minutes and has the power to make grown men cry within every movement. I cannot even begin to do justice to the phenomenal word painting and harmonic angst it contains, not a note wasted or out of place.

 

Surely that's what minimalistic music ought to be considered as trying to do - not a note wasted or out of place - and where a great deal of it is misrepresented by the term?

 

The thing is, though, the Warlock requires huge concentration and committment from the listener to appreciate fully, the Jenkins doesn't. I return to one of my bugbears - background music in shops, pubs, airports, even in the street - being drip-fed I think has led the majority of people to find their ears have been switched off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Lee Blick

I find Karl Jenkins entirely unrewarding to listen to and too commercial. Personally I would not waste my time and energy performing that sort of work. It only feeds the "dumbing down" machine. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Roffensis
I don't know Mad Rush but I do play the organ version (by Donald Joyce) of the conclusion of Act III of Satyagraha - a gentle piece and not too hard! I have the score of Dances II and IV but have never found the ability to maintain concentration for the whole 20 mins or so.

 

 

Yes, Dance IV is a corker, some nice cross rhythms to throw you off course!! I played it through on saturday night in church, after Mass when I locked myself in, that and Mad Rush!! Great fun.

 

R

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Carol Williams played a recital at Birmingham S.H. on Monday and played one piece by Karl Jenkins. Not only had I not heard it before, I'd never heard of him. Afterwards she was selling her CDs, a new one had a number of Jenkins' pieces on it. Always willing to give the benefit of the doubt I bought it - mmmmmm, maybe I shouldn't have bothered. Definitely an acquired taste, not for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Carol Williams played a recital at Birmingham S.H. on Monday and played one piece by Karl Jenkins. Not only had I not heard it before, I'd never heard of him. Afterwards she was selling her CDs, a new one had a number of Jenkins' pieces on it. Always willing to give the benefit of the doubt I bought it - mmmmmm, maybe I shouldn't have bothered. Definitely an acquired taste, not for me.

I rather like 'Trumpeting Organ Morgan' and it goes down v well with the public.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I love minimilist music. To me is it on a different plane than a lot of other classical music. It seems to focus more on harmony and rythmn and the subtle development of it rather than pretty tunes and the ego of the performer. It is easy to say it is dumbing down but much of 20th century comtemporary music was about breaking out from the expressions and strict musical forms of the previous century.

I confess I'm still struggling here. Lee, I would be interested to learn what technical considerations (composition-wise) make the difference between the minimalist music you like and the music such as Karl Jenkins's that you do not. From the replies so far to this thread I get the impression that most people's reaction to this sort of music depends simply on whether they like the sound of it or not. Is there really no more to it than that?

 

I agree that much 20th-century music was about forging new paths, but this happened long before minimalism came along. For me the 20th-century composer who epitomises "focus on harmony, rhythm and subtle development" is Messiaen. These and more were central to his technique - and he of course was far from minimalistic. He and countless others have shown that it is perfectly possible to forge a new musical language that has intellectual substance.* "Development" is not a word I would associate with any of the truly minimalist music I have heard. As I hinted earlier, a minor change every half minute or so is just that and no more - it does not constitute development (which we should understand as "development of the musical discourse") because there is no real discourse.

 

I have heard it suggested - and perhaps this is what you were suggesting - that we should divest ourselves of all the preconceptions imbued by our Western music traditions and approach this music with an unsullied mind. Now on the face of it this seems entirely reasonable, but wait! Why is it that I can listen perfectly hapily to an Indian raga, even if I cannot follow its technical niceties, without wanting to disembowl myself in the way I did when suffering Gorecki's terminally tedious Totus tuus? I suspect this argument of being a bit of a cop-out.

 

David: many thanks for your thoughtful reply. Whilst I doubt we could really class Warlock, Gurney and Finzi as breaking out of chains - pushing boundaries is how I would put it - you hit the nail on the head. It's the difference between composers who can burrow into the listener's being and those who can only titillate.

 

"Trumpeting Organ Morgan". Yes, now there's an excellent example of what I mean. Some pretty neat ideas: pity he hasn't a clue what to do with them. Once you've heard them, you've heard them, so what exactly is gained by repeating them? Forget the miniscule variations - they make no difference. Come the next general election I expect to hear politicians bleating "Vote for David Cameron! Vote for David Cameron! Vote for David Cameron!" They might vary the words a bit, but it'll still be the same call. And there will be those who like the sound of it and follow like sheep. But surely intelligent people will want an explanation as to why they should.† (Apologies: that reads like a personal attack, but it wasn't meant that way at all.)

 

* However, I confess that Messiaen's later music from about the Messe de la Pentecôte onwards leaves me behind. It all sounds the same to me.

 

Personally I'd want to know why I should vote for any of them, but, please, let's not go there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Cynic
.

 

"Trumpeting Organ Morgan". Yes, now there's an excellent example of what I mean. Some pretty neat ideas: pity he hasn't a clue what to do with them. Once you've heard them, you've heard them, so what exactly is gained by repeating them?

 

If one waits long enough on this forum, you can expect every topic to come up at least twice. The trouble is, in giving the same reply the second time around it makes me look even more of a bore! For this reason alone, I have not responded to the juicy bait currently being trailed about Gloucester Cathedral.... ah well.

 

In this case: 'Trumpeting Organ Morgan' I speak with some experience. IMHO This piece is no more repetitive than Widor's Toccata (Symphony 5) and although it is not on a par musically, it rounds off a recital in very happy style. You'd have to have the right organ, of course, and it would help if you've given the audience some proper meat already. I like it, and will continue to play it. Anyone who has not heard this piece yet and is looking for a real festive romp to add to their repertoire, this one has a lot to offer!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the sound of Mad Rush! Who publishes it please?

 

I'm quite a fan of minimalist music (I once set Praise my Soul the King of Heaven in a sort of minimalist way), but I have always thought the minimalist composder par excellence to be Steve Riech - anybody know his "Four Organs"? OK the organs concerned are (of necessity) electronic - probably Hammonds when he composed it - but it still is a good piece.

 

As to minimalist music generally, there is a book by Robert Fink -

Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice

 

As far as I can tell minimalist music appears to be an almost purely American concern though I would be interested to hear of significant contributers to the genre from Europe of beyond.....

 

 

 

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have to qualify the above by admitting that the pieces by John Tavener that I have heard have more to sustain the interest. I actually like some of it.

 

 

Well I wouldn't describe Tavener as minimalist, actually.....

 

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Roffensis
If one waits long enough on this forum, you can expect every topic to come up at least twice. The trouble is, in giving the same reply the second time around it makes me look even more of a bore! For this reason alone, I have not responded to the juicy bait currently being trailed about Gloucester Cathedral.... ah well.

 

In this case: 'Trumpeting Organ Morgan' I speak with some experience. IMHO This piece is no more repetitive than Widor's Toccata (Symphony 5) and although it is not on a par musically, it rounds off a recital in very happy style. You'd have to have the right organ, of course, and it would help if you've given the audience some proper meat already. I like it, and will continue to play it. Anyone who has not heard this piece yet and is looking for a real festive romp to add to their repertoire, this one has a lot to offer!

 

I have always loved Widors's Toccata, and still do, but I have always considered it a very "slim" work, very repetitive, and very predictable. In terms of the organ it is very showy, and can impress. But... to us organists who play it and know the score, it is not exactly advanced muscially surely? In it's way, it's an earlier Philip Glass!!! Philip Glass did actually turn his back on western music, he made no bones about it. Widor did not, and look what he came up with, in this case!!!.......that's before one dares get into Mozart, who latterly did write some solid stuff, but his early symphonies, OMG!!! despite how he layed them out, none of them are exactly advanced, even for that time. He constantly used the same harmonic progressions, in different orders yes, but this is true none the less. Poulenc's Piano Concerto (two pianos) is a hoot of a "go" at many composers. Mozart, Haydn, even Gershwin are all in there. It's a hoot. Another composer who had "digs" at other composers was Prokofiev. His Classical Symphony is hilarious, particularly the climax in the second movement, not to mention ridiculous exchanges in the first, the third movement goes no where whatever, and peters out, and the fourth movement with it's twisted "Alberti" basses and all kinds thrown is is also a right old skit at the classical school. I think it far better to be broad and try encompass everything. Messiaen is interesting, and yes he does use cross rhythms, but Glass's are more transparent overall. The concept is purer.

 

R

 

R

 

I like the sound of Mad Rush! Who publishes it please?

 

 

Chester Music. I got mine from Musicroom.com.

 

It is a very meditative and flowing work, I think his best. Also sad in places. I think you'll enjoy it.

 

R

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So he's written some organ music has he? I didn't know that.

 

Now perhaps forum members can help me out here. Can someone explain what exactly the value of minimalist music is?

 

quote]

 

 

===============================

 

 

 

Vox is, of course, misunderstanding his own question; to which there is no possible answer.

 

If it still existed (though it may do) I would refer him to to my first and only masterwork of the genre, which at the time of it not being published, (due to charges of plagiarism), was at the cutting-edge of contrapuntal minimalism.

 

If I recall, the inspiration for this extraordinary work was an ink-blot, which had formed between two pages of folded manuscript paper, and which bore an uncanny resemblance to Mr Handel's wig, as it rested on a bed-post overnight in the indirect semi-shade of a flickering candle.

 

As others seek to establish whole religious-foundations upon such sightings and resemblences, and then claim to perform miracles, I thought that the least I could do was to celebrate this in some musical way.

 

I chose, as the central (and only) theme, the last two notes of the soprano from the "Amen Chorus", but then (with devilish cunning) realised that two identical notes could represent both heaven and hell, and even be persuaded to work contrapuntally, if the first was the top note of a 1ft flute, and the other the bottom note a 32ft Sub Bass.

 

From this, everything fell into place, and fugal writing took on a pivotal intensity throughout the various entries and exposition, which included a quasi-Bachian redundant entry in F# minor (with no stops drawn), a full inversion of the subject and then a remarkable stretto which no-one could actually hear, but which everyone felt was definitely there.

 

Sadly, it was only when the completed manuscript was inadvertently left beside an open-window at the publishers, that the awful truth emerged, that I had used disappearing-ink after my nephew left a pot of it on my desk after writing a love-letter to his teddy-bear.

 

The problem was not so much the empty piece of manuscript paper (which was never very full anyway), but the fact that some jobsworth or other took it upon himself to inform the John Cage Trust, and thus, like the great Mr Bononcini (who had lived in a bed-sit above a London Brothel), I was accused of plagiarism.

 

I protested my innocence of course; merely pointing out that I had borrowed the theme from Mr.Handel, but in the total absence of evidence, the Americans drove the more compelling evidence of a blank score to the fullest extent, and I fled back to my native Yorkshire, vowing never to write another single piece of music.

 

Now living in reduced circumstances, as did Mr.Bononcini, I bear with great fortitude the misfortune which befell me, and continue to curse the American establishment.

 

However, I often try to answer Cage's question, "Whis is more musical, a truck passing a factory, or a truck passing a music-school?"

 

As to the value of minimalism, in my case, it became the $6,000,000 question.

 

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Lee Blick
I like the sound of Mad Rush! Who publishes it please?

 

I'm quite a fan of minimalist music (I once set Praise my Soul the King of Heaven in a sort of minimalist way), but I have always thought the minimalist composder par excellence to be Steve Riech - anybody know his "Four Organs"? OK the organs concerned are (of necessity) electronic - probably Hammonds when he composed it - but it still is a good piece.

 

As to minimalist music generally, there is a book by Robert Fink -

Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice

 

As far as I can tell minimalist music appears to be an almost purely American concern though I would be interested to hear of significant contributers to the genre from Europe of beyond.....

Peter

 

I like Four Organs too. Variations for Wind, Strings and Keyboards (includes organ) is worth a hear too. One of my favourite Reich works at the moment is You Are (Variations).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I love minimilist music. To me is it on a different plane than a lot of other classical music. It seems to focus more on harmony and rythmn and the subtle development of it rather than pretty tunes and the ego of the performer. It is easy to say it is dumbing down but much of 20th century comtemporary music was about breaking out from the expressions and strict musical forms of the previous century.

 

I should have said that minimalist music focuses rather less on harmony and more on rhythmic (and sometimes almost visual) patterns. If one were to look at some of the compositions by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman and, to an extent, John Adams, there are a number of devices employed. Steve Reich, for example, wrote a piece for solo violin (the name of which currently escapes me), in which the violin was recorded and certain passages were then looped, re-introduced and phased in and out throughout the performance.

 

However, what is apparent, is that there is far less vertical emphasis on a harmonic structure and rather more on linear movement - the slight alteration of a particular figuration, for example, in order to create an interesting effect of the juxtaposition of each voice or part.

 

More later, the bell has sounded....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I should have said that minimalist music focuses rather less on harmony and more on rhythmic (and sometimes almost visual) patterns. If one were to look at some of the compositions by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman and, to an extent, John Adams, there are a number of devices employed. Steve Reich, for example, wrote a piece for solo violon (the name of which currently escapes me), in which the violin was recorded and certain passages were then looped, re-introduced and phased in and out throughout the performance.

 

However, what is apparent, is that there is far less vertical emphasis on a harmonic structure and rather more on linear movement - the slight alteration of a particular figuration, for example, in order to create an interesting effect of the juxtaposition of each voice or part.

 

More later, the bell has sounded....

 

 

=========================

 

 

May we send this to "Pseud's Corner" in 'Private Eye?'

 

 

;)

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How about contributing something useful to the thread, MM?

 

Personally I found pcnd's observation helpful.

 

Still searching...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Cynic
Personally I found pcnd's observation helpful.

 

 

Me too.

 

One of my favourites is Steve Reich's (early) 'Drumming'. Essentially playing the same (or very similar material) each independent player shifts in time so as to go (essentially) in or out of phase with the rest.

 

If it's not music, I don't know what else to call it. Playing with sounds??

 

It's certainly creative, though not for everyone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Me too.

 

One of my favourites is Steve Reich's (early) 'Drumming'. Essentially playing the same (or very similar material) each independent player shifts in time so as to go (essentially) in or out of phase with the rest.

 

If it's not music, I don't know what else to call it. Playing with sounds??

 

It's certainly creative, though not for everyone.

 

Thank you Cynic and Vox!

 

I must confess that I am not really sure why MM should wish to submit my post to Private Eye.... :unsure:

 

A further thought, enlarging on the idea of slight variations introduced in the figurations (or patterns, if preferred) of some minimalist keyboard music is that, one result is the slightly out-of-phase patterns, where the figuration in one hand is altered by one note (or rhythmic value) but the other part is maintained. When this device is used to alter each successive bar, quite interesting effects are created. It is possible, for example, to arrange the phasing so that each part co-incides perhaps, say, once every seventeen bars; alternatively, a rhythmic or pattern change can be made in every bar, in order that the co-incidence of the parts happens more frequently.

 

Thus patterns and layers of patterns can be built up (also using the convenience of looped recordings, in order to add to or to reduce the texture) creating a surprising variety of sound effects and rhythmic shapes.

 

In a sense, in order to extract the most from listening to music of this type, a good 'ear' is useful - the result being an ability on the part of the auditor to be able clearly to follow the shapes and patterns created. Now this is an instance where it might be said that harmony (but not in the sense of strict four-part chorales) played a part.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Paul is correct, though - this type of composition is not for everyone. I have to confess that I prefer my music to be more harmonically interesting - and to have a more clearly-defined shape, or structure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If it's not music, I don't know what else to call it. Playing with sounds??

 

It's certainly creative, though not for everyone.

 

 

=======================

 

 

I like the description:- "playing with sounds."

 

Wasn't this what Pfitzner did with escaping wind from compressed air-bottles?

 

I could take an axe to a Steinway, but would it ever be music, and could it ever have a repeat performance?

 

I heard a performance, such as it was, at St.Bavo a couple of years back, where the registrands eased stops out and eased them in again, and resorted to switching the blower on and off whilst note-clusters were held down; with the result that half the audience quietly walked out from the "konzert."

 

I am not averse to innovation in music, but I baulk at inflicitng experimentation upon people; which really is the ultimate statement of self-indulgence. Equally, I am not averse to 20th and perhaps 21st century music, but more important than the word "century" is the word "music," and to me, in so far as the organ is concerned, that implies a certain structure and order based upon the natural harmonic relationships of the instrument.

 

Interestingly, I found myself quite liking the micro-tonal music of Earsley Blackwood (Chicago?), who seems to combine the language of Hindemith with a more contemporary approach to tonality. Innovative certainly, but hardly the stuff of musical revolution.

 

I may be tempted to take this thread more seriously if people discussed, for example, the music of the late Marian Sawa (Poland) or some of the contemporary organ-works from Hungary, of which we appear to know absolutely nothing in England.

 

As for minimalism, I c---d w---e l--e t--s a-d c---m t--t it h-s l------y m---t, but I think I would be deluding myself.

 

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...