Maison Vague – Moments Musicaux Part II

This performance recalls the minimalist patterns and textures of psychedelic new age works like Steve Hillage & Miquette Giraudy’s Rainbow Dome Musick and Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air. … Read More Maison Vague – Moments Musicaux Part II

Composer Philip Glass To Be Awarded The National Medal Of Arts

Glass is receiving the award for his ‘groundbreaking contributions to music and composition. One of the most prolific, inventive, and influential artists of our time, he has expanded musical possibility with his operas, symphonies, film scores, and wide-ranging collaborations.’… Read More Composer Philip Glass To Be Awarded The National Medal Of Arts

Music for 18 Machines Reimagines Steve Reich For Synthesizers

Music for 18 Machines is a reimagining of Steve Reich’s classic minimalist work Music for 18 Musicians – for 18 synthesizers. … Read More Music for 18 Machines Reimagines Steve Reich For Synthesizers

Steve Reich On Tape Loops, Rhythm & Sampling In Minimalism

In this new interview, via Q on CBC, classical composer Steve Reich reflects with host Shadrach Kabango on his career in classical music.  He starts by discussing his early tape loop works, like It’s Going To Rain and goes on to discuss his … Continue reading

Minimalist Terry Riley Was Remixing Before Remixing Was Cool – ‘You’re Nogood’

American minimalist composer and performer Terry Riley is not as well known as fellow minimalists Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Nevertheless, his work – which explores tape looping, live performance with tape delay, microtonality, world music influences, synthesis and more … Continue reading

Free Clapping Music App Teaches You Steve Reich – And Rhythm

What’s the sound of one person performing Clapping Music? This.

Before there was Rock Band and Guitar Hero, there was Steve Reich. His 1972 work Clapping Music is a rhythmic etude, and like all compositional etudes, it’s also something you can think of as a “game.”

Any musical score is a graphical representation that’s meant to help you understand something that’s normally heard, not seen. You can use traditional notation – and Clapping Music works well as that.

As an iPhone app, Clapping Music the work has some new tricks. The “score” – the app – can judge your rhythm. Fail to tap accurately, and it’s “game over” – start over and try again. And whereas the composition requires two people, now you can play along with your iPhone. You can also see a different visual representation, one that’s, incidentally, close to those used in some forms of ethnomusicology and that presents time in a more proportional way than classical Western scores do. (That is, whereas engraved scores arrange things to make them look visually neat, but squeezes and expands the representation of time in the process, this form of graphical notation displays time and spacing as one and the same.)

The app also has some extras to learn more about Reich’s music.


You can thank London-based developer Touchpress for this app and others that explore teaching music through software. They already built The Orchestra, Julliard String Quartet, and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, which offer interactive tours that let you experience those works in ways something like a book can’t provide. I’m really impressed by their apps – they’re accessible to total newcomers to music, and yet they’re still engaging to someone like me who’s been through years and years of classical music education. That’s no small challenge. And as a Clapping Music fan, it’s fun to see the work in a new way.

Part of why their apps work is that they pair talented developers and designers with the musical experts best able to cover the music. So in this case, we have Steve Reich, researchers from Queen Mary University of London, and the London Sinfonietta.

Two feature requests, though (a little unfair, given the app is free, but must be said):
1. Notation view.
2. Onset detection via the mic, so you can actually clap!

Because, oddly, all of this makes me think that maybe the age of apps and screens is the perfect time to rediscover making scores. There’s something really charming about this:


And we live in an era that truly gives us the opportunity for “and” rather than “either/or.”

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Free iOS Game Teaches You How To Play Steve Reich’s ‘Clapping Music’

Touchpress Limited has released Steve Reich’s Clapping Music – a free iOS game that’s designed to improve your rhythm. It does this by challenging you to play Steve Reich’s ground-breaking work, Clapping Music, a piece of music performed entirely by clapping. Steve Reich’s … Continue reading

Beauty in Repetition: Listen to Hanno Leichtmann’s Minimal Studies


Hypnotic repetitive gestures are perhaps the signature of our generation in music, the legacy of Reich and Glass and Monk and Riley and Young … and tape decks and computers and drum machines. But then, repetition is the very stuff of our bodies, of heartbeats and footsteps and brain waves. Mastering repetition is essential, then, to any compositional practice. It should be, literally, as natural as breathing in and breathing out. And it should have the potential to take on its own voice.

That’s the sense I get of this work. Listening to Hanno Leichtmann’s music, you may drift off into another world. It is work of collage, but in a way that imagines a new landscape. In ‘Minimal Studies,’ released on Moscow’s mikroton Records in 2013 and in live form this week, that effect is especially in evidence.

Hanno is no stranger to club music as well as experimental; he’s a DJ, often favoring the dubby, as well as curator. And his aesthetic is partly visual, staging festivals that reinterpret typography and letraset in music and creating his own visual objects, including optical picture disk releases. In Minimal Studies, he finds a way to take the gesture of a loop and hone in on it in some unique and transcendent way. The reference to minimalism is clear, but the color, the effect are Hanno’s.


I’ve gotten to know Hanno living here in Berlin, this world capital of clubs full of repetition. This work in particular stands out, in combination now with similarly entrancing visuals, in the form of an 8mm accompaniment by filmmaker Carolin Brandl. The content of that film veers toward exoticism, but in a sense, Hanno’s soundscape seems to have fallen from some other culture. Meredith Monk I know spoke about imagining her minimalist gestures as being futuristic or alien and simultaneously ancient; the sound and image here have a similar sense.

trailer from hanno leichtmann on Vimeo.

By the way, if there are echoes of POLE and Jan Jelinek, he has played in bands with both those artists. Musicians always trade ideas, doubly so when playing together live. I asked Hanno for some commentary, and he directed me to this text by Reinhold Friedl about the project:

Hanno Leichtmann – Minimal Studies

Under the unassuming title of „Minimal Studies“, electronic musician Hanno Leichtmann investigates the remnants of the minimal music movement of the 1970s and catches some of its still audible echoes. The CD begins with the pulse of an organ, a deep, low bass slides in, layer-by-layer the piece builds.

The American music psychologist Diana Deutsch proved that any sound becomes a melody if it is repeated often enough. This is exactly the phenomenon we encounter here; we suddenly hear melodies and are not sure if they were there before, if they are there now or where they came from.

And yet Leichtmann’s music is not based on gushing euphony or psychoacoustic effects. Instead it restricts itself to basics by combining the repetitive structures of minimal music with elements of once groundbreaking Berlin club music. Rhythmic impulses taken from soundtracks and contemporary music samples, a John Carpenter bass, are accompanied by acoustic instruments (violin, organ, clarinet, trumpet) that play melodic patterns, which disappear in the flow of sound, becoming ever harder to discern.

Pop-minimal music; meandering chord/rhythm loops, experimental turntable manipulation basslines, it’s all there: Steve Reichs asynchronous patterns, Pole’s minimal dub, Nic Collins’and Yasunao Tone’s broken CD players, Terry Riley’s organs, Oval’s systemische clicks’n’cuts, LaMonte Young’s drones, Michael Nyman’s early film scores…
Vast monotone landscapes emerge, subliminal disco bass, idling synthesizers, barely-there electronic percussion, and occasional instrumental melodies. Hyper-minimalism on display.

What can be done with this material after it’s been reduced to it’s universal forms? Suddenly, sound patterns like landscapes from Tarkowski’s films emerge: a strangely nebulous unreality consisting all that is farmiliar, but all newly mixed together (including a monolithic guitar riff as an obituary for Sonic Youth) until the sound of bells and a few scant piano melodies take over and finally fade away. Music about music.

Hanno Leichtmann’s recurrent hymns to repetition leave the listener oddly liberated.

Apart from this series of studies, it’s worth hearing Hanno’s similarly minimalist-collage creation “Unfinished Portrait Of Youth Today”, in the same vein:

Hanno performs live with Carolin’s film Thursday in Berlin at the FEED series at KW, along with ex-architecture student turned musician Tobias Purfürst. (Facebook event) This is also some nice ambient creation; I’m especially fond of excerpt #2:

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Terry Riley On Tape Loops

TERRY RILEY Tape Loops was uploaded by: castlelizard
Duration: 148
Rating: Continue reading

Simple Isn’t Easy: Keezy Drummer is Easy, Free, and – Maybe Too Minimal [iPhone]

Introducing Keezy Drummer from Elepath, Inc. on Vimeo.

Here is a plot line we’ve heard before: Musical interfaces are complicated. That makes them unfriendly to beginners. They give you options you don’t need. (So far, no argument.) The solution, of course, is some new product.

Each time we hear this plot line, someone talks about it like they’ve discovered it for the first time. This time, it’s Keezy Drummer, a new, simple drum machine app. You can hear them talking to The Verge about why this will change music technology, and why apparently in several decades of drum machines, they’re the first to work out this solution.

Here’s my challenge to you: try to actually use Keezy Drummer, and make it something you will not only use once, but come back to again and again. Go ahead: the app is free. I’ll wait.

It’s fun for a moment, right? And then you discover you can’t change the sounds. (It plays back only samples.) So you can’t get a sound quite the way you like. And you can’t really vary the patterns, so they get boring.

But maybe you do get a pattern you like. Unfortunately, you can’t save it – there’s only a delete button. And you can’t give it to others, so you can’t share it.


The creators of Keezy are right: music hardware is complicated. It’s often expensive, and heavy, and takes up a lot of space. But then, here’s a question they didn’t ask: all that being true, why are so many people spending hundreds of dollars to buy something like the AIRA TR-8 drum machine? Listen: even the name of it is sort of confusing. It sounds at best like it might be some sort of predator robot from the future that’s come back in time to kill you. Yet people love the thing.

The answer, of course, is that some of that complexity is there for a reason. It was solving some problem those users had. And if it’s sometimes too complicated, it’s probably trying to solve a lot of problems of a lot of different people. But people spend money on hardware and software like this because they want to spend a lot of time with it. Despite what you may have seen recently on South Park, and unlike a lot other iPhone apps, they aren’t just using them sitting on toilets.

Keezy’s creators hint that some sort of sharing connectivity could be the secret to making Drummer useful. But – that doesn’t matter, because they didn’t ship it. They get credit for that idea if they can make it real. Also, we’ve seen just this kind of grid before, so that isn’t yet a compelling reason to use Drummer, either. (The Verge sums it up neatly, comparing with other apps: “none are as fun to play with in the first minute of trying it out.” Right – but what about after that first minute?)

Keezy is making beautiful apps. They’re also making beautiful demo videos. And I’d like to see Drummer evolve, as well as the first Keezy app, because maybe it could grow into something I don’t want to immediately delete.

Introducing Keezy from Elepath, Inc. on Vimeo.

The original Keezy, indeed, gets more interesting as you use some simple-but-clever features, like “sticky” recording:

Sticky Record Demo with Reni Lane from Keezy on Vimeo.

Or using more sophisticated techniques to play it:

And the original Keezy fits better with the photography metaphor introduced in the interview with The Verge. Simple camera apps work because photography itself is unlimited. Keezy can afford to be simple because the mic is open-ended – hence, Reggie Watts turns out to be so interesting. That’s not necessarily so with drum machines.

I don’t want to discourage creative designers and developers from minimalism. On the contrary, it’s a challenge we should all give ourselves as creators. We should just accept that simple isn’t easy. It’s not just taking things out.

Taking stuff out is often a good step – but it may then mean putting something back in. I was at least satisfied that Auxy, the pattern sequencer app, will eventually add in export features we need, and introduced a touch interface worth watching. But even that I’ll use only once it adds export.

And I believe in putting my money where my mouth is. We are adding tilt control back into WretchUp, the app we built for Mouse on Mars, and we’re working on Audiobus support. So I know first-hand the dangers of getting stuck on simplicity. I think we’ll also have to make sure this is something people want to continue to play, as Michael Forrest did with the app over the weekend.

Einstein, of course, is attributed as saying “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.” Emphasis mine.

Or to quote Alfred North Whitehead – and this may even better apply to iOS developers – “seek simplicity, and distrust it.”

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