Tones, Drones And Arpeggios: The Magic Of Minimalism

Confirmed for BBC Four on 2 March at 9pm to 10pm

Ep 1/2

Friday 2 March



Musician Charles Hazlewood explores the four great American minimalist composers who rebooted classical music in the 20th century. Beginning with the pioneering experiments of Californians La Monte Young and Terry Riley, this two-parter culminates in Philip Glass and Steve Reich’s mesmerizing work in New York.

Charles Hazlewood goes in search of classical music’s last great ‘movement’: Minimalism. In this episode he tracks down the pioneers of the genre, which began on America’s West Coast in the 1950s. Describing them as "prophets without honour", Charles explores La Monte Young’s groundbreaking experiments with musical form that included notes held for exceptionally long periods of time and drones, inspired by Eastern classical music and Hindustani singer Pandit Pran Nath.

He drives out into the Californian countryside to the ranch of Terry Riley and discusses the musician’s revolutionary experiments with tape recording looping and phasing, along with early synthesizer sound. The episode includes excerpts from key early minimalist pieces, including Riley’s now famous ‘In C’ performed by Charles Hazlewood’s All Stars Collective and detailed workshopping by Hazlewood where pieces are deconstructed musically.

The key attributes of minimalism, its reliance on repetition, its mesmerizing transcendent qualities and innovative use of technology are also discussed with broadcaster and writer Tom Service; Gillian Moore, Director of Music at the Southbank Centre; composers Morton Subotnick, Max Richter and Bryce Dessner, and musicians Jarvis Cocker and Adrian Utley.