Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice

By Robert Fink | Go to book overview

FOUR
“A POX ON MANFREDINI”
The Long-Playing Record, the Baroque Revival,
and the Birth of Ambient Music

[Glass’s] Music with Changing Parts … and its immediate
successors—Music in Twelve Parts (1971–74) and Contrary
Motion and Two Pages— might, in their incessant iteration
and underlining of patterns and progressions, strike a hostile
observer as what Bach would sound like to a tone-deaf
listener.

Samuel Lipman, “From Avant-Garde to Pop” (1979)


PRELUDE: EINSTEIN ON THE FRITZ

The piece is, one has to admit, quite funny.

Build up a minimalist string pulsation in C major, over which a pianist begins playing the first bar of the first prelude from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier— very fast and mechanical. Repeat it eight times. Repeat the next bar eight times. The next, eight times more. Continue at glacial pace through the familiar chord progression, cueing in the whirring arpeggios, the dit-dah-dah syncopated brass chords, and the portentous bass drum strokes. Add in that wheezy violin étude figure that Jack Benny used to play—and, for counterpoint, “Three Blind Mice,” in case anybody isn’t getting the joke.

The Prelude to Einstein on the Fritz is a recipe for joke minimalism, of course; it is at the same time a piece of ersatz “Baroque music,” assigned number e = mt2 in Peter Schickele’s catalog of the works of his alter ego

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