ON MINIMALISM

London, 2019

    [I was drawn to minimalism very early. When I first realised my passion for music it was trough Punk Rock. Then when I was growing up I was constantly listening to the Pink Floyd, and as a music student my biggest influence was Miles Davis. All the music I enjoyed had one thing in common; its composers and performers had all mastered the art of “less is more”. It was no surprise that the music of Philip Glass—and all that came after him—became to this day my biggest inspiration. Minimalism became more than just a creative medium, but also an art de vivre that has brought me to many schools of life. And in a circle, it all comes back to what I create, and the music I compose.]

 

The idea of categorisation and labelling gives most artists the heebie-jeebies. It is true that as creators it is very often uncomfortable to be put in a box. However, a label is a guide that adds a context of creation which helps explore the music and better understand the musical relationships. Categorisation helps the listeners understand musical circumstances. As an example; labelling the music of Debussy and Ravel as impressionism has allowed melomaniacs to discover the music of Mompou, Granados and Satie, and how each artist has influenced the other. Additionally, categorisation helps to anchor a musical accomplishment in history, and therefore helps to follow the route of musical evolution. Finally, since a creator is also a listener, it allows him to find direction in his musical choices.

 

[I am glad to feel like I belong to a musical movement, although I know that it will change through the years. When asked to describe my music, I often use the word minimalistic. It fits my current creative mindset and the ethos I—voluntarily or not—follow. It also defines where I come from, and where I am going.]

 

Minimalism is a form of art music that employs limited or minimal musical material. The American composers La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass are credited with being the fathers of minimalism. Since the expression minimalism was first used in a musical context by Michael Nyman in 1968 in The Spectator—as the story goes—, the genre has evolved a lot and has become one of the most appreciated genre of Contemporary Classical music—thanks to its popular nature and composers such as Arvo Pärt, Vladimir Martynov, Max Richter or Ludovico Einaudi.

 

Given the way the genre has evolved through the years, I like the idea of precising it with two sub-genres; mini-minimalism and maxi-minimalism. Both sub-genres share a common musical outcome which is focusing on essential and limited musical material. However mini-minimalism is the creative process of developing as little as possible, while maxi-minimalism develops as much as possible—and therefore closing connects with the idea of totalism and maximalism. Mini-minimalism is using a small amount of material, and keeping its use to a minimum, often with a clever use and balance of space—with artists such as Arvo Pärt and later Nils Frahm, and more recently artists such as Simeon Walker or Sergio Díaz de Rojas. Maxi-minimalism is using a small amount of material, and expanding it to the maximum, often through the creation of pulses and extreme repetition—with artists such as Philip Glass, Anton Batagov or more recently Lubomyr Melnyk and Philip Daniel are all very good examples.

 

[When composing music, I often alternate between both approaches. For my last project—The Seasons—there are pieces that are mini-minimalistic, such as November and December and others that are maxi-minimalistic, such as July and September.]

 

It is important to be sensible regarding the labelling and categorisation of music and keep in mind that all things are relative. Whatever results from what an artist creates has one first and foremost label, which is the one of the artist himself.

 

[If I do consider my music as minimalistic—mini and maxi—I do recognise the multi-influenced aspect of it—from the emotionally driven work of the Romantics, to the sensitivities of Impressionism or the explorations of Jazz.]

Listen to the soundtrack to this article.

 

© 2020 Doug Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Twitter - Black Circle
  • SoundCloud - Black Circle
  • YouTube - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle

Get the latest news from Doug Thomas.