Minimalism: Repeating the Hours in the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

Article excerpt

Philip Glass is a scandal in the classical music world. He publishes too much. His music is not intellectual enough. Over and over the same chordal progressions do not count as music. Glass is not a composer. Glass cannot write an opera or music for strings. On and on. Glass has been roundly criticized for many years by conservative musicians. More the reason to listen to him. Isn't it funny that when you get bad press you get more famous, people listen to you more and you become, after a while, the new great one in the field. New music, like new scholarship is not respected partly because the elders say that it doesn't count as music.

Philip Glass is--in my estimation--the most important composer of our times. His music intrigues, fascinates, and allures. I find myself coming back to Glass over and over again. It's the over and over again of his music that attracts me. The way in which Glass has broken with tradition is interesting in and of itself. 20th Century music is associated with a movement called Serialism. Composers such as Berg and Schoenberg are associated with Serialism. I could never understand why anyone would listen to such horrible music. Of course, these composers are well known and their music has become part of the classical canon. But why? Glass says that Serialism is "crazy" and "creepy" (Potter, 2004, p.10). I laughed aloud when I read these words. I couldn't be more in agreement. But who dares to say such a thing? Who dares critique the classical music canon? It takes a lot of guts on Glass's part to say these things. The classical music world is highly conservative--for the most part. One look at the curriculum in music conservatories and you know that music history is only the classics. Symphony orchestras seem to keep playing the same 19th century music over and over. I wonder when people will stop listening to 19th century music. Frankly, I don't get it. We do not live in the 19th century and the music makes little sense today. But people keep playing it and studying it in music schools. New music is always already suspect. New anything is always already suspect it seems. People just don't like the new. At any rate, Glass's popularity is immense among non-professional musicians. The music in the film The Hours is by Glass. I think the music makes the film. The film is a highly moving portrait of Virginia Woolf and two other women who live tormented lives trapped in patriarchy and heteronormativity. Woolf is working on her novel Mrs. Dalloway. The second character is baking a cake for her '50s dreadfully boring husband and the third character played by Meryl Streep--who is a contemporary of ours--takes care of an AIDS sufferer while planning a party like Mrs. Dalloway who begins the Woolf novel by saying, "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." We see Meryl Streep buying flowers in a Manhattan flower shop. She is planning for her party. All three women are haunting and haunted, victims of their time. All three women contemplate, at some level, terrible thoughts like suicide. The second character played by Julianne Moore, drops off her small child with a neighbor, while she goes to a posh hotel with a bag full of pills contemplating suicide. She cannot stand her suburban life and her dull husband, whom she does not love. She has a dream that she drowns. Virginia Woolf drowns herself putting rocks in her pockets walking calmly into the water. Curiously, the small ways in which life moves, the little things that make up the day--the hours--are repetitive and for the most part dull and oppressive. The AIDS sufferer is highly critical of Meryl Streep's character because she is so phony and superficial only living on the surface of things. The AIDS character is a poet. We find late in the film that he was the son of the second character, Julianne Moore, deserts her child and husband. The poet--the seer--sees into the shallow and dull lives and the boringness of the everyday. The poet-seer is a visionary but he cannot live in this world because it is just too dreadful. …