Monday, April 28, 2014

Minimalism in Film

Have you ever seen The Truman Show (1998), The Hours (2002), The Illusionist (2006), Secret Window (2004), or No Reservations (2007)? If so, you have heard the film scores written by minimalist composer Philip Glass. What do I mean by minimalist composer? Minimalism is a type of modern music known for its simple rhythms and sonorities and use of repetition. The minimalist movement was somewhat of a reaction to the complexity found in the modernist music of Cage, Stockhausen, Babbitt, Carter, and Boulez. Several names associated with minimalist music include La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, John Adams, and Philip Glass. For the purposes of today’s discussion, I am going to focus on Glass.

Philip Glass
Courtesy of

His work influenced by sitarist Ravi Shankar, Glass’s work focuses on simple harmonic progressions, consonance, and melodiousness. Glass has written a wide variety of pieces including operas, symphonies, concertos, and of course, film scores.

Here are a few movie clips from several of his films. Listen to the music. Why do you think minimalist music fits so well as a film score? Or is this type of music not your preference to accompany a film? Do you think it’s as effective as the type of music we discussed in reference to John Williams earlier this month? Or does it serve a different purpose?

                                                                 No Reservations

                                                                  The Illusionist

                                                                 Secret Window

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