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Totalism

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Totalism

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In music, totalism is some people's term for a style of music that arose in the 1980s and '90s as a developing response to minimalism - parallel to post-minimalism, but generally among a slightly younger generation, born in the 1950s. In the early 1980s, many young composers began writing music within the static confines of minimalism, but using greater rhythmic complexity, often with two or more tempos (or implied tempos) audible at once. The style acquired a name circa 1990, when it became evident to composers working in New York City that a number of them - John Luther Adams, Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Kyle Gann, Michael Gordon, Arthur Jarvinen, Diana Meckley, Ben Neill, Larry Polansky, Mikel Rouse, Evan Ziporyn, among others - were employing similar types of global tempo structures in their music. The term totalist refers to the aims of the music, in trying to have enough surface rhythmic energy (often emulating pop) to attract unsophisticated listeners, but also to contain enough background complexity to satisfy connoisseurs. There is also an echo in the term of serialism's "total organization," here drawn not from the 12-tone row, but from Henry Cowell's theories about using the same structuring devices for rhythm that have been traditionally used for pitch. For instance, the traditional ratio between frequencies of a major second interval is 9:8, and 9-against-8 is an important tempo contrast in many totalist pieces, achieved by having some instruments play dotted eighth-notes while others play triplet quarter-notes. In practice, totalist music can either be consonant, dissonant, or both, but generally restricts itself to a small number of sonorities within a given piece.

Some major works in the totalist idiom include:

  • Mikel Rouse: Quick Thrust, Failing Kansas, Dennis Cleveland (a talk-show opera)
  • Michael Gordon: Thou Shalt!/Thou Shalt Not!, Van Gogh Video Opera, Trance
  • Rhys Chatham: An Angel Moves Too Fast to See
  • John Luther Adams: Dream in White on White, Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing, The White Silence
  • Kyle Gann: Long Night, Custer and Sitting Bull
  • Ben Neill: 678 Streams, ITSOFOMO
  • Arthur Jarvinen: Murhpy-Nights, The Paces of Yu

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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