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Art of Record Production Conference
May 17-19, 2019
Berklee College of Music, 921 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
berklee.edu/arp19
Friday, May 17 • 10:30 - 11:00
What You Hear is What You Hear: Contemporary Pop Music as Minimalism

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‘What you see is what you see.’ The minimalist painter Frank Stella’s famous quote from 1964 has become a catchphrase for minimalism, and while a clear-cut definition of minimalism’s aesthetics is elusive the quote does imply some of the central characteristics of early minimalism: 1) a deflation of expressivity, 2) an emphasis on texture and surface, and 3) a fundamental grounding in the use of repetition. Via these three attributes this paper will explore how early minimalism can be used to understand current developments in contemporary pop music. The aim is not a 1:1 comparison but heuristic attempt to find new concepts and connections in pop music and its digital production methods. First, the paper will discuss the methodological challenges with reducing works of painters, sculptors and composers such as Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass into a few common denominators before applying them to a very different genre and period. Second, the paper will explore how to approach an application of minimalist aesthetics in pop aesthetics by examining how pop music - increasingly informed by hip-hop and EDM - is often composed by controlling different kinds of repetition when loops are intersected in a sequencer-based DAW. Musical examples will exemplify how various looping strategies affect musical form and create new experiences of spatiality and performativity. The result can be heard as a new kind of pop music that is based less on expressivity and more on a processual exchange and juxtaposition of texture. Or, in other words, with a little rewrite of Stella’s quote, what you hear is what you hear.

Speakers
avatar for Anders Reuter

Anders Reuter

University of Copenhagen



Attendees (13)