Maximum Minimalism

For the sake of categorizing, let’s call it minimalism but for the sake of music, let’s just call it great! While listening to KUSC I came across Michael Torke’s collection of fast paced orchestral suites and ballets. His rhythm and orchestration is a type of sound that should be explored, perhaps as backdrops for films or as interactive elements. Although Michael Torke’s music has been categorized as minimalist, it is far from it. I wouldn’t even put him in the post-minimalist genre.

Here is his piece Green from his collection Color Music:

3 flutes (I, II double piccolo), 2 oboes, 1cor anglas, 2 clarinettes, 1 bass clarinette, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, xylophone, glockenspiel, timbales, slapstick, temple blocks, marimba, crotales, tambourine, suspended  cymbal, snare drum, vibraphone, woodblock, crash cymbals, triangle, 2tom-toms, claves, bongos, bass drum, harp, piano, strings.

The repetitive motif, F#-A-D#-E-B, is heard throughout Green and runs up to the top of the register in the piccolo and back down to the tuba exploring all of the sounds in between. The percussion accents the roller coaster ride with constant stabs, corky syncopated woodblock attacks and rolling timpani. I get sensations of travelling through a vast construction site, zipping through steel pillars and sweeping cranes.

Green also reminds me of my favorite piece by another contemporary, John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine:

2 flutes (1&2=piccollo), 2 oboes (2=English horn), 4 clarinettes, 3 bassoons (3=contra), 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, woodblock, triangle, xylophone, crotales, glock, suspended cymbal, sizzle cymbal, snare drum, pedal bass drum, large bass drum, large tam-tam, tambourine, 2 synths (optional), strings.]]>

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