Modern Classical

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hugh

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Reich, Riley, Cage, Glass. Minimalism, serialism, musique concrete. That kind of thing. Any knowledgeable enthusiasts on here?

Just been listening to Reich's Music For Six Pianos and I liked it very much. I'm pretty ignorant of this stuff in general though and am looking for recommendations. What are the "big" hitters? The SGT Peppers and the Pet Sounds of this world?
 
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hugh

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I realise of course this is a pretty dumb question like "I've just decided to check out some of that rock'n'roll music ... what's good?"
 

Cornu Ammonis

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Expect a number of informative and enthusiastic posts on this subject when I get off my phone and on to my laptop. Modern/contemporary composition is an absolute rabbit hole once you get into it; so much amazing and challenging stuff that makes me really excited about music.
 

washingcattle

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Start with

Phillip Glass - Cello Ochet Conjunto Iberico- It's a few of his pieces played by a Cello Octet, it's got this on it


Steve Reich - Triple Quartet

This kind of thing

or music for 18 musicians
or Daniel Variations

Terry Reily - In C - obviously

Also give this a go

Penderecki



Also for bang up to date, wether you like radiohead or not there is a lot to admire about this guy.

Johnny Greenwood

 
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hugh

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WC-cheers that's the type of thing I'm after
Scutter- looks cool but I am more interested in "the canon" if you know what I mean
CO - looking forward to your recommendations

Edit: scutter - arvo part ....yes!
 

prefuse

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I wonder will rock music suffer the fate modern classical.
People admire it but prefer the older stuff.
 
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hugh

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I wonder will rock music suffer the fate modern classical.
People admire it but prefer the older stuff.
Maybe it has already.

But you know, this stuff is a big blank canvas for me. I know all the names but have never really listened to the music much. So it's better to start with some of the "classics" and feel your way into it like that, right?
 
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hugh

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Oh yeah, I know the Gorecki. It's fantastic. I actually have a CD of it but it's bollixed so I haven't heard it in years.
 

Cornu Ammonis

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Minimalism - The Big Four (Part One)

So you've started with Steve Reich which is probably the best place to start as he exemplifies both the conceptual aspects of minimalism (repetition, limited instrumentation, etc.) and is quite listenable even if you're not into arsehole experimental music. His early work revolved around tape loops, playing the same loops on two different systems which go in and out of time with each other (phasing). One of his first important pieces is "It's Gonna Rain" (1965) which takes a recording of a preacher as its base:

And shortly after "Come Out" (1966) which was centred around a recording of a black teenager interviewed shortly after taking part in the Harlem riots. It's one of the rare moments where classic minimalism has a concrete, political edge:

Liking the effect of tape loops going in and out of sync with themselves, Reich then decided to work with musicians to see if they could go in and out of phase with each other. This led to what I think is his golden period with pieces like "Clapping Music" (1972) showing how the simple idea of introducing a pause between bars can result in a kaleidoscope of rhythmic combinations:

Later came "Six Pianos" which was later changed to "Six Marimbas" where the rhythmic effect of phasing seen in the early works starts to blur into the tonal effect as different combinations of the same set of notes build into new and unexpected chords:

Not all Reich's work is as straightforwardly musical and some of the pieces around the same time hark back to the more experimental sounds of the tape works. In particular "Pendulum Music" (1973) is a neat idea where a speaker is placed on the floor facing upwards and a microphone is allowed to swing above it, creating feedback which steadily increases into a drone as the microphone comes to rest:

In the 80s and 90s, Reich eventually merged the tape experiments of his early compositions with the perpetual motion of his phase compositions with mixed results. Instead of letting the tape recordings just loop, Reich uses the speech patterns as templates for the music. By far the best from this period is "Different Trains" (1988) but some of the other works are terrible ("The Cave", I'm looking at you!). "Different Trains" uses the Holocaust as its inspiration, comparing the different trains that Reich, as an American Jew, takes to get from A to B to those German and Polish Jews took to the extermination camps:

After this I stopped keeping track but if you're looking for a good physical release to buy, I highly recommend the box set Phases - A Nonesuch Retrospective. Great recordings and even better value (currently just under £15 on Amazon for 5 CDs).
 

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