I want to learn more about contemporary classical music.
September 29, 2004 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I want to learn more about contemporary classical music of the Pärt, Feldman, Glass variety. Anyone have any pointers? {more inside}

Ever since starting grad school I've been unable to listen to music, because I have to read all day and all night and can't deal with music while I read. This is a horrible disaster!

There are a few exceptions to this rule: for whatever reason, I can listen to Joy Division while I read. And some electronic music, like Gas, or Keith Fullerton Whitman; and stuff like Discreet Music or Dntel. I've been most successful, with music like Philip Glass's Metamorphoses, Pärt's Passio, and, recently, Max Richter's "Blue Notebooks."

What other minimalist, repetitive, non-distracting and yet beautiful and enriching classical music is out there? I swung by the record store today but was lost looking at all the composers.
posted by josh to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I attended a concert of Messiaen and Part music a few years ago at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, so I guess both composers are considered part of the same "school" of composition. Very interesting stuff, but not sure I would want to work out in the gym to it.... : 0
posted by ParisParamus at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2004

Messiaen probably isn't what you want, at least not some of his works. The Turangalila Symphony, for instance—it won't work. The Quartet for the End of Time would maybe be appropriate, or 20 Contemplations of the Infant Jesus.

Kyle Gann, a composer and music critic for the Village Voice, has a minimalist/postminimalist/"postclassic" (his term, as far as I know) web radio station. I expect it would give you plenty of leads.
posted by kenko at 2:35 PM on September 29, 2004

Some Michael Nyman is great. You could try his soundtrack for Gattaca.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:25 PM on September 29, 2004

dnab, who does not have an account, but is often on #mefi said:
You might want to check out John Tavener. He composes very religious music. It's glorious, but very easy to let fade into the background. (more)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:26 PM on September 29, 2004

Rather, John Tavener.

extra "%22" in the link
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:29 PM on September 29, 2004

Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Michael Nyman, Aulis Sallinen, Giya Kancheli, Jean Sibelius and J.S. Bach are all composers you might want to check out. But you do say "non-distracting yet ... enriching" -- I'm not sure how you can be enriched by something unless you're paying attention (i.e. listening) to it.
posted by cbrody at 5:34 PM on September 29, 2004

You might enjoy the minimalist work of Steve Reich, particularly "Tehilim", "Drumming" and "Music For 18 Musicians". Where possible, aim for the recordings by Steve Reich and Musicians.
posted by Gamecat at 5:36 PM on September 29, 2004

You can ignore my suggestions of Sibelius and Bach - I missed the "contemporary" bit of your question. Though some of Sibelius' music is both minimalist and surpisingly modern .
posted by cbrody at 5:37 PM on September 29, 2004

Steve Reich, as mentioned, and a very good variation published by Nonesuchmusic called Reich Remixed, which features a few different DJ's working his music.

If you haven't already heard Avro Part's Tabula Rasa, you should.

Other stuff recommended by my very-into-modern-composers GF who is standing over my shoulder to make sure I get this right:

Part: Alina
Part: Fratres
Gorecki: Symphony #3
Gorecki: Three Pieces in Old World Style
Gorecki: Good Night (op. 63)
Reich: Music for 18 Musicians
Reich: City Life

...and as a reach, File Under: Finnish Ambient Techno Chant, another compilation by various artists.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:04 PM on September 29, 2004

Whoops, got that Reich Remixed link wrong. Here's the correct link.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:05 PM on September 29, 2004

check out LaMonte Young, Bernhard Günter (and anything on his excellent label, trente oiseaux), Richard Chartier and the L_NE label, and my favourite, Thomas Köner. His first few albums (Teimo, Nunatak Gongamur, Permafrost, Aubrite, Kaamos) are incredible. Particularly Aubrite and Permafrost.
posted by nylon at 6:27 PM on September 29, 2004

you might also enjoy Chris Watson's field recordings. And of course, the 9 Beet Stretch.
posted by nylon at 6:31 PM on September 29, 2004

In addition to the excellent suggestions above, you can try the Bang on a Can folks.

Another excellent resource is John Schafer's New Sounds program on WNYC, which is archived here - most of my collection of contemporary music is stuff I first heard there.
posted by judith at 6:37 PM on September 29, 2004

I think that some Reich, like Drumming, would be too rhythmic.

And some Bang on a Can stuff is far, far from being like Pärt or Feldman!
posted by kenko at 7:00 PM on September 29, 2004

This is great, thanks very much everyone! I have Tabula Rasa, which is amazing, and quite a bit of Part, which I like a whole, whole lot. Tomorrow I'll make a trip to the record store for some of everyone's other suggestions.

The enriching / distracting thing is hard. What I really need to do is concentrate on my reading--but, at the same time, I also need to occasionally change focus and think about something else to clear my head. Working in a nice, quiet cafe is great for this--but I spend most of the day in the library stacks, and while the white noise of the air conditioner is captivating in a John Cage kind of way, but it would be nice to be overwhelmed by beauty and/or awesomeness at those moments.
posted by josh at 7:11 PM on September 29, 2004

Suzanne Vega has a really excellent radio show on modern music called American Mavericks. All 13 parts can be heard on the website, each about an hour long---click on the "Programs" link to find them from the main page. She looks at the development of "Modern" Americain music from the turn of the twentieth century onwards. It's only flaw is that it's entirely US-centric, but still, it's a really nice introduction. Many of the artists here mentioned, in particular Reich, Cage and Glass are given a lot of focus. I've really enjoyed litening to it this summer.
posted by bonehead at 7:15 PM on September 29, 2004

Yet another vote for Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. Sometimes a record takes a few listens for one to "get into" the music. The first time I heard 18, though, I was immediately hooked. Reich's more vocal-oriented music, especially the more recent stuff (Tehillim, City Life, Different Trains, and especially Three Tales) is meh-y, though.

If you're going to go for the Glass route, you must get "Einstein on the Beach". Enough said.

You should also look into the post-rock chamber music of Rachel's. Their newest album, Systems/Layers, is a-fucking-mazing.
posted by LimePi at 8:17 PM on September 29, 2004 [1 favorite]


I know you asked specifically for classical music, but if Gas works for you, a few other things come to mind that probably will too:

Yagya - Rhythm of Snow (this is a lot like Gas)
Biosphere - Cirque, Shenzhou, and possibly the newest album
Monolake (I like cinemascope best, but anything is good)
Possibly deep ambient such as Thomas Köner, Rapoon
posted by advil at 10:02 PM on September 29, 2004

As someone who likes Glass, I'd suggest Michael Torke's Color Music and this disc of John Adams' more popular pieces.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:38 PM on September 29, 2004

You could maybe try Die Zeit or Six Etats Intermediaires by Alexander Rabinovitch: both pieces are vaguely akin - in a good way - to '80s Philip Glass & some of Michael Nyman's stuff... Also, Come In! featuring compositions by Vladimir Martynov, which are beautifully repetetive in an altogether different way. And no-one else has mentioned In C by Terry Riley...
posted by misteraitch at 12:22 AM on September 30, 2004

more about contemporary classical music of the Pärt

Arvo Part?

Have you explored all of Ryuichi Sakamoto's music?

As for Part, I wonder if you know any of his tunes that are similar to Spiegel im Speigel or Fur Alina.....beautiful tracks....but I know the guy has been writing for 35 years or so....hard to track down similar tracks...
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:35 AM on September 30, 2004

SpaceCadet: I guess you know those Arvo Pärt tracks from this ECM album. A version of Für Alina in its original form (hardly more than 2 minutes long) can be found on a CD called Pourquoi je suis si sentimental, performed by Alexei Lubimov, along with one other similar piece by Pärt (Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinuschka) and works by Alexander Rabinovitch, Valentin Silvestrov, & others.
posted by misteraitch at 2:03 AM on September 30, 2004

I look for that kind of stuff by label, and I've had the most luck with Lovely music, they have a nice collection of contemporary classical that isn't elevator music. I like Barbara Held, and William Duckworth the most so far. ( I also like Paul Demaranis, but he is vocal samples tinkering, and would probably be distracting. ) Also, there's Brian Eno and Harold Budd (my favorite) albums that might work.
posted by milovoo at 8:27 AM on September 30, 2004

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