Making a big deal of Minimalism

The LA Times remembers what a shock minimalism was in academic music circles in the 1960s. The writer carried an album of Terry Riley’s “In C” into class, prompting an outburst from his Berkeley composition professor:

‘”He betrayed Berkeley,” my red-faced professor shouted. ‘He betrayed music. He betrayed Gedalge. He betrayed everything this department stands for. I will not allow that album to be brought into my classroom. This has nothing to do with Vietnam. It is about preserving civilization.'”

The article notes that 30 years later, after the shock of hearing the music is long gone, minimalism is still controversial in some ways. Orchestras hate playing it, and in the U.S., the upcoming “Minimalist Jukebox” festival put on by the Los Angeles Philharmonic is one of the first large-scale performances of the style to be staged.

Reily’s “In C” can still be heard here, as part of Public Radio’s American Mavericks series. My favorite version is by Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple, which I’m not sure if they’re following the rules laid out by Reily, but it’s psychedlic droney bliss anyway.