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Title Rethinking Minimalism: At the Intersection of Music Theory and Art Criticism
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Date Accessioned
Degree PhD
Degree Level doctoral
University/Publisher University of Washington
Abstract By now most scholars are fairly sure of what minimalism is. Even if they may be reluctant to offer a precise theory, and even if they may distrust canon formation, members of the informed public have a clear idea of who the central canonical minimalist composers were or are. Sitting front and center are always four white male Americans: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. This dissertation negotiates with this received wisdom, challenging the stylistic coherence among these composers implied by the term minimalism and scrutinizing the presumed neutrality of their music. This dissertation is based in the acceptance of the aesthetic similarities between minimalist sculpture and music. Michael Fried's essay "Art and Objecthood," which occupies a central role in the history of minimalist sculptural criticism, serves as the point of departure for three excursions into minimalist music. The first excursion deals with the question of time in minimalism, arguing that, contrary to received wisdom, minimalist music is not always well understood as static or, in Jonathan Kramer's terminology, vertical. The second excursion addresses anthropomorphism in minimalist music, borrowing from Fried's concept of (bodily) presence. Relying heavily on Adriana Cavarero's philosophy of vocality, differences in bodily expression are explored within and between the music of Young and Reich. The final excursion deals with objecthood itself, disrupting the commonplace that minimalism makes no political or cultural statements. Following art critic Anna Chave, I argue that tropes of masculinity have been disguised in minimalist music by the presumption of neutrality. Masculinity, however, must be redefined with the onset of the 1960s. Following Peter Stearns and Michael Kimmel, I argue for an austere, isolationist masculinity, whose presumed omnipotence produces an immanent fragility. Reich's minimalism in particular can be distinguished from that of Riley and Young on account of its recontextualization of American masculinity. Overall this dissertation is a dissertation of difference. By attending to time, corporeality, and masculinity - subjects too often subordinated within the field of music theory - I would undermine the stabilizing and homogenizing claims implicit in the stylistic heading of "minimalism."
Subjects/Keywords Adriana Cavarero; Jonathan Kramer; Michael Fried; Minimalism; Minimalist Music; Minimalist Sculpture; Music; Art criticism; music
Contributors Bernard, Jonathan W (advisor)
Language en
Rights Copyright is held by the individual authors.
Country of Publication us
Record ID handle:1773/24092
Repository washington
Date Retrieved
Date Indexed 2020-01-07
Issued Date 2013-11-14 00:00:00
Note [] Thesis (Ph.D.) – University of Washington, 2013;

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…perception of musical time.8 After several analyses, Chapter 3 will conclude with a few comments on the connection between form, 8 Jonathan Kramer, The Time of Music: New Meanings, New Temporalities, New Listening Strategies (New York: Schirmer, 1988…

…entirely dissimilar to the question of time in minimalist music. In order to explore this connection I rely principally on Jonathan Kramer’s The Time of Music, which has laid important groundwork for discussing the relationship between musical form and the…

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