The Minimalist Jukebox Festival


Last year, NPR covered The Minimalist Jukebox Festival, a week-long exploration of the school of minimalist music. The NPR story includes a clip of my favorite minimalist work: Music for 18 Musicians, as well as a telling of the classic minimalism knock-knock joke.

I remember reading somewhere that the world premiere of Music for 18 Musicians was performed by an ensemble of only seventeen musicians by doubling up a vocalist with an instrumental line. This was done to reduce the cost of travel. If true, it would make for another one of those "Unfair trivia questions" like "How many years did the Hundred Years' War last?"

One last story about 18 Musicians before I let you go. One of the managers in my group needed an audio CD to demonstrate some feature or other, so he came into my office and borrowed my copy of 18 Musicians, unaware of what lay in store. When he returned the CD afterwards, he told me that when he popped in the CD, he thought it was skipping, since the opening of the piece consists of a single note repeated. That's what you get when you borrow a CD of minimalism...

Comments (8)
  1. James says:

    In a similar vein to the ‘skipping CD’ problem, about a week ago my main home PC hit an unexplained I/O error, playing music from my NAS system. Because of the I/O error, the music player looped playing the last buffer contents – which happened to sound exactly like the ‘click…whir’ of a dying hard drive. Combine that noise – from a speaker near the RAID array – with the I/O error on screen: result, me spending several minutes trying to figure out which drive has failed and why it produced this result…

  2. nathan_works says:

    I wish I could come up with some "work free" way of bilking individuals out of their wealth by calling my creations "art." Get snooty and and saying critics aren’t smart/capable/avant-garde enough to understand it. Profit! If I’m really good, maybe I’ll get some grants too, or that British prize, the Turner…

    A-flat for 15 minutes. Since I think "defecate in a box" and it’s various incarnations have won too many times.

  3. A co-worker had that network-timeout buffer-cached-loop skipping problem come up once upon a time, but it was techno music, so it was several minutes before he realized there was a problem.

  4. Walter says:

    I would have assumed it was because of, you know, minimalism…

  5. JeffH says:

    As is happens, Music For 18 Musicians is one of my very favorite pieces of orchestral music. Yes, at a shallow level it may sound like endless repetition (apropos "the CD player’s skipping" comment; I have heard that said about the piece whan I’ve had it on in a semi-public work area), but the subtle variations are where this music breathes for me. And unbeknownst to me, it introduced my mind to a very common 6/8 bell pattern from Afro-Cuban folkloric music, a pattern that became explicit for me when I started studying that genre of music. Anyways, great music for working to, or riding a stationary bike.

  6. Worf says:

    Heh… I have trouble when I need an audio CD at work, because the only time I do is when I buy one and haven’t brought it home.

    Alas, people know me as the tech guy, so they ask me for MP3s and videos… but the don’t realize I don’t have mainstream music tastes. I basically ask my coworkers for generic music, since it beats responding with something strange.

  7. Drew Hoskins says:

    Eventually, I grew to love "Music for 18 Musicians."  Great to work to, but I’ve seen it give one person a headache.

  8. frogola says:

    My fav Steve Reich has always been ‘Drumming’… takes me back to my college days!  Funny story, thx.

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