Tag Archives: William Duckworth

In its general musical usage, postminimalism refers to works influenced by minimalist music, and it is generally categorized within the meta-genre art music. Writer Kyle Gann has employed the term more strictly to connote the style that flourished in the 1980s and 1990s and characterized by:

  1. a steady pulse, usually continuing throughout a work or movement;
  2. a diatonic pitch language, tonal in effect but avoiding traditional functional tonality;
  3. general evenness of dynamics, without strong climaxes or nuanced emotionalism; and
  4. unlike minimalism, an avoidance of obvious or linear formal design. [1]

A vague definition at best.  It is becoming more difficult to discern the difference between genres of art, because each “new” style is a blend of previous styles and identity is becoming less clear, even if individual works stand out as unique.

Take for example, Daniel Lentz’s The Crack in the Bell,  On it’s surface, it is heavily influenced by techniques heard in minimalism as well as sororities exploited by Copland (with different orchestration, of course).  There is a Glassian element that also shines through.  When it’s all said and done, the result is a fresh, unique sound.  I find this music to be a little too commercialized for my taste (something you might run across off Broadway or in some quirky film), but there are moments of truly beautiful music, especially with the use of American folk tunes.  I hesitate to say it, but I think Ives would have enjoyed this music.  The layering and truly American sound seem right up his alley; the orchestration may not be to his taste, however.  The recording I heard used lots of synthetic instruments (at least for some of it), where real instruments would do the job well, which I think is a shame and speaks low-budget.  I also feel that this particular piece could be about half the length and be just as effective.  There is a little feeling of randomness throughout – ideas jump around and come and go a bit too quickly.

In contrast, Time Curve Preludes by William Duckworth incorporates elements of Impressionism, Romanticism, and even some Chance Music.  On first listen, I enjoyed this piece, but it’s intrigue fell flat on subsequent rounds of it.  I feel like I want a melody!  Something to bring each movement together that is not simply rhythmical or motivic.  It’s just barely not repetitive enough to be meditative (and is a little hard around the edges) but it’s too repetitive to be anything more than mood music.

Janice Giteck’s Om Shanti incorporates some international sounds on top of the minimalist persistence that develops in the second section.  The layering that is used keeps the drive alive (a la Ravel’s Bolero).  This piece, as a whole, was much more enjoyable to me than the previous two, even though elements of movie music kept creeping in.  The opening is especially beautiful. as is the beginning of the third section.

It’s interesting to me how similar these works are in terms of sonority and harmonic function.  There are no real cadences – lots of open-ended statements.  Repetition is a heavily-used aesthetic.  This music as a whole feels like a throwback to Populism, with modernized instrumentation and a minimalist aesthetic.

It just occurred to me that movie music is not the right phrase.  Video game music – this music feels very much like the music that could (should?) be played in different story scenes within video games.