Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice

Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice

Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice

Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice

Synopsis

Where did musical minimalism come from--and what does it mean? In this significant revisionist account of minimalist music, Robert Fink connects repetitive music to the postwar evolution of an American mass consumer society. Abandoning the ingrained formalism of minimalist aesthetics, Repeating Ourselves considers the cultural significance of American repetitive music exemplified by composers such as Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. Fink juxtaposes repetitive minimal music with 1970s disco; assesses it in relation to the selling structure of mass-media advertising campaigns; traces it back to the innovations in hi-fi technology that turned baroque concertos into ambient "easy listening"; and appraises its meditative kinship to the spiritual path of musical mastery offered by Japan's Suzuki Method of Talent Education.

Excerpt

By custom and precedent, the cover of this book should have been a smooth, uniform gray, white, or black broken only by contrasting lettering, preferably lowercase, in an unobtrusive sans serif type. If an image on the cover were needed, it ought to have been a carefully lit art object of reductive purity—perhaps a dark pinstripe painting by Frank Stella, one of Dan Flavin’s cool fluorescent-bulb installations, or an assembly of metallic boxes by Donald Judd. The word minimalism tends to elicit a generic “tasteful” response from designers and typographers; its once dangerous asceticism has, as Edward Strickland lamented in his own gray-jacketed monograph, become a graphic cliché.

Cliché or not, the formalized emptiness that defines most book jacket images of the “minimal” does tell us something: it is quite easy to judge a monograph on minimal art or music by its neat gray cover. The works discussed inside will be considered completely autonomous abstractions; they will be valued for being rigorous and difficult; messy or imprecise connections between the world of art and the larger culture will be cleaned up, or better, suppressed altogether; the general ambience will be the tasteful, understated elegance of the Museum of Modern Art.

Judged by its cover, the musicological study you hold in your hand promises, in comparison, to be somewhat vulgar and uncontrolled. (Unless you are looking at a library hard cover, where durable and defensive minimalism is the norm.) Juxtaposing the garish, repetitive imagery of mass consumer society with signs of musical repetition, I have chosen . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.