domingo, 9 de noviembre de 2014

Minimalism ahoy!


Expanding the Expanse

Vicky Chow
“We lose ourselves in the groove, letting the bright sounds wash over our ears. But not all minimalism is idyllic.”
Listening to pianist Vicky Chow blaze through Tristan Perich’s Surface Image, one is tempted to cry “Minimalism!” After all, we’re dealing with a sonic landscape not all that distinct from the music of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, La Monte Young, and Terry Riley. With its overlapping patterns, static harmonies, and relentless repetition—not to mention its unbroken, hour-plus length—Surface Image might easily be seen as a 21st-century companion to the minimalist classics of the 1960s.
Vicky Chow and Tristan Perich
Tristan Perich and Vicky Chow
Perich’s work investigates the sonic attributes of 1-bit music, whose low-fi quality trumps even the already low-fi, old-school video game sounds of chiptune (see: Anamanaguchi). In Surface Image, Chow’s unyielding piano is backed by forty hand-built speakers that intermittently blast bursts of 1-bit accompaniment. But even here, there are resonances with minimalism: the reedy timbre of the electronics weirdly resembles the looping saxophones of early Terry Riley or La Monte Young.
These days, every year seems like a landmark for minimalism. If it isn’t a celebration of a major milestone—in November, the 50th anniversary of Riley’s In C; next year, Riley’s and Young’s 80th birthdays—then it’s a Carnegie Hall premiere of a big, new Reich or Glass work. And with every concert or record, the music industry reminds us that Reich listens to Radiohead, Glass worked with Brian Eno, Young’s drones influenced the Velvet Underground, and Riley inspired The Who. The hyperbole surrounding minimalism is that it’s the rare experimental moment in American music that has close ties to the rock world.
That pop culture focus, however, often obscures the expanse of sounds that minimalism has encompassed. A number of recent releases available on Bandcamp—including Perich and Chow’s new album, out this week on New Amsterdam—opens up one’s ears to minimalisms that extend beyond the oft-cited quartet of Young, Riley, Glass, and Reich.

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