Is minimalism still relevant? Charlie Hoyt

Charlie Hoyt

It’s going to be a while before we see people roaming the streets in Steve Reich t-shirts and blasting Górecki from their car stereo systems. However, minimalism seems to be permeating pop-culture at an amazing rate. Keeping in mind that the term ‘minimalism’ is used to define a very broad genre of music, turn on your radio or television and listen to the background music in commercials— minimalist tendencies abound. Notice also the amount of minimalism popping up in our film scores. These outcroppings into mainstream culture seem to be due in part to the influence of cross-genre composers like Philip Glass, and current trends in popular music. Fans of more mainstream genres are being exposed to minimalism in the form of repetition-based popular music like techno, trance, and hip-hop. Perhaps this is a result of overlapping styles of music, or maybe, a revolt against our instantaneous get-it-now way of life and world of dwindling attention spans. It could also be our egos — delving into the world of the avant-garde and experimental seems to give comedians and musical laypeople a credible intellectual boost. My case in point: we’ve seen Philip Glass on South Park!

In any case, it’s apparent to me that minimalism, in one form or another, will be around for a while, at least another 639 years (see the performance of John Cage’s ORGAN_/ASLSP in Halberstadt, Germany), and we won’t soon forget the influence it’s having on popular culture. Us fans sure don’t think it will go away anytime soon, but we’re optimistic. It will stay — but most likely manifest itself in other genres of new music as it fades from its pure form. It’s a great example of the melding cultural landscape that comes with better technology and communication. So take that coffee mug off of your Steve Reich disc — it’s not a coaster yet!

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