Tag Archives: John Adams

Minimalism and Piano

Continuing the discussion of modern classical music:

Growing up, minimalism was sort of made fun of, at least in the amateur musical circles of which I was a part.  As the years have passed though, I think we’ve seen the importance of the ideas and the music.  I was exposed to some Philip Glass during high school (Einstein on the Beach), and then John Adams in my undergraduate study (China Gates).  I started to really get interested when I re-watched The Truman Show and discovered that Philip Glass had done the wonderfully lyrical score.

Although I’ve mentioned Philip Glass and John Adams, other composers use minimalist elements and ideas such as:  Arvo Part, Steve Reich, and John Tavener.  Anyone who hears the choral music of Arvo Part more than once will instantly recognize the unique voice he has through his music.

I can’t say I have a great knowledge of minimalism , but I have grown to like the pieces I’ve heard and played.  Being a pianist, I have naturally gravitated to minimalistic pieces for that instrument. Specifically, I’ve played some of Philip Glass’s pieces titled Metamorphosis.  I find them to be conducive to the imagination in almost a stream of consciousness kind of way.  Yes, it’s repetitive, but that’s the point.  The pieces gradually transform, the harmonies gently shifting.  There is a mysterious quality, and people have called the music hypnotic, but I don’t really like that term.  The music itself never stops, like the human mind.  Even when we sleep, our subconscious is active, reflecting, reconsidering our conscious experiences.  So, to me, the music is like a conscious rendering or interpretation of the subconscious state.

Below are a few clips.  The first one is Philip Glass playing and discussing one of his Metamorphosis pieces.  The next clip is Phrygian Gates by John Adams.  The final clip is part of the score to The Truman Show.  This clip shows the more lyrical side of this music.