Repetition is an inseparable element of the classic musical form. Repetition of a fragment, theme or motif makes the structure of the piece legible and easy to follow by the listener. In the form of a rondo, the couplets are repeated, in the fugue the theme keeps coming back, and the reprise in a sonata form is a slightly modified repetition of the exhibition. What will happen, however, when the repetition of a single motif becomes the main idea of the entire work?
Such experiments were undertaken by the creators of minimal music - a trend that was born in the United States in the 1960s. The guiding principle of musical minimalism was to limit the means of expression and to simplify the musical language, a reaction to the post-war compositional techniques of serialism, sonorism and aleatoric actions. Composers such as Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, reached for quite simple harmonies, focusing primarily on the musical time signature. Their works were based on repeating one motif in which small changes were gradually introduced, and only after a long time could we observe an evolution to the initial idea - hence this trend is sometimes also called process music.
The repetitive music genre also includes compositions by John Adams "Shaker Loops" and Philip Glass "Echorus", which already in the titles refer to the idea of repeatability. The loop is a popular technique in tape music, where a short fragment is played over and over again. "Shaker Loops" is one of the first minimalist compositions by Adams, written in 1978 first for a string septet and five years later for orchestra. The first part of the title refers to the religious sect from New England, the so-called Shakers, known for their ecstatic iconic dance.
Glass's "Echorus" was made for two violinists, Edna Mitchell and Yehudi Menuhin, in the winter of 1994/1995. A short composition in the form of a chaconne, inspired by considerations over compassion according to the author, "inspire feelings of peace and gentleness".
A kind of echo, though one from a few centuries ago, is also offered to listeners by German composer Max Richter. In cooperation with the Deutsche Grammophon label as part of the publishing series Recomposed, he reached for Antonio Vivaldi's famous "Four Seasons" and transformed it according to his own style. In Vivaldi's music, Richter noticed signs of minimalism, which he skilfully used, looping numerous motifs of the baroque artist and adding to them an electroacoustic layer in the form of sounds from a Moog synthesizer.
Richter | Glass | Lab 9: El-finale
Symphony HallFilharmonia im. Mieczysława Karłowicza w Szczecinie
ul. Małopolska 48