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Module WXM-3115:

Module Facts

Run by School of Music, Drama and Performance

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Pwyll ap Sion

Overall aims and purpose

This module forms part of the Genre/Composer modules according to the School of Music’s Programme specifications. It main aim is to provide a detailed introduction to the composer and area in question, and to ensure that all learning outcomes are met.

Course content

This course will begin by looking at the meaning of the term 'minimalism' in art and music and trace its evolution in the early works of La Monte Young and Terry Riley. Discussion of Steve Reich's landmark essay 'Music as a Gradual Process' will be followed by analyses of works by Reich, Glass, Adams and the module will end by looking at the contribution of more recent European composers and the emergence of Postminimalism during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Assessment Criteria


Work which demonstrates a limited knowledge of the subject, with restricted ability at conceptual thought, little evidence of a truly intellectual approach, but nevertheless expressed understandably.


Work which demonstrates a competent grasp of the subject, with good conceptual thought, evidence of intellectual acumen, and expressed clearly and interestingly.


Work which demonstrates a thorough grasp of the subject, with evidence of further study and deeper conceptual thought, with some originality of approach and/or insight, and expressed coherently and convincingly.

Learning outcomes

  1. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the term Minimalism as applied to music specifically, and to the arts in general.

  2. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to show that they have familiarised themselves with the music of composers associated with this term and developed an understanding of stylistic and aesthetic distinctions and differences.

  3. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to apply critical and analytical skills acquired during their second-year studies to this area, with reference to specific works.

  4. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to demonstrate an appreciation of Minimalist music and its connections with culture and society through a study of its critical reception.

  5. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to demonstrate an ability synthesise information about this genre and critically evaluate its significance.

  6. On successful completion of the module, students will be able to demonstrate skills of communication.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

One essay of 2,500 words (75%), to be submitted by noon on Tuesday Week 13 (7 May 2019).


One 6-minute presentation (25%) to be given in week 10.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 78

One class of up to 2 hours every week for 11 weeks, with a reading week in week 6 (week starting 29 October 2018).


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Musicianship skills – recognition, classification, contextualisation, reconstruction, exploration
  • Intellectual skills specific to Music – contextual knowledge, cultural awareness, critical understanding, repertoire knowledge, curiosity, analytical demonstration
  • Technological skills – digital capture, digital expression, digital innovation
  • Intellectual skills shared with other disciplines – research and exploration, reasoning and logic, understanding, critical judgement, assimilation and application
  • Skills of communication and interaction – oral and written communication, public presentation, team-working and collaboration, awareness of professional protocols, sensitivity, ICT skills, etc.
  • Skills of personal management – self-motivation, self-critical awareness, independence, entrepreneurship and employment skills, time management and reliability, organisation, etc.
  • Enhanced powers of imagination and creativity (4.17)


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Reading list

Adams, John (2008). Hallelujah Junction: composing an American life (London: Faber & Faber).

Adlington, Robert (2004). Louis Andriessen: De Staat (Aldershot: Ashgate).

ap Siôn, Pwyll (2010), 'Review of Robert Carl, Terry Riley's In C', Twentieth-Century Music, 7/2: pp. 248-52. (ed.) (2013), Michael Nyman: collected writings (Aldershot: Ashgate). (2013), 'Review of Timothy A. Johnson, John Adams's Nixon in China', Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, 8 (2012-3): pp.93-8. 

Beirens, Maarten (2003), 'Minimalist Techniques from a European Perspective', Revue Belge de Musicologie/Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Muziekwetenschap 57: pp. 215-29.

Bernard, Jonathan W. (2003), 'Minimalism, Postminimalism, and the Resurgence of Tonality in Recent American Music', American Music 21/1: pp. 112-133.

Carl, Robert (2009), Terry Riley's In C (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Chapman, David (2013), 'Collaboration, Presence, and Community: The Philip Glass Ensemble in Downtown New York, 1966-1976' (PhD diss., Washington University in St. Louis).

Cohn, Richard (1992), 'Transpositional Combination of Beat-Class Sets in Steve Reich's Phase-Shifting Music', Perspectives of New Music 30/2: pp. 146-77.

Delaere Mark and Maarten Beirens (2004), 'Minimal Music in the Low Countries', Tijdschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis 54/1: pp. 31-78.

Duckworth, William (1995), Talking Music (New York: Schirmer Books). ___ and Richard Fleming (eds.) (1996), Sound and Light: La Monte Young Marian Zazeela (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press).

Duker, Philip (2013), 'Resulting Patterns, Palimpsests, and "Pointing Out" the Role of the Listener in Reich's Drumming', Perspectives of New Music 51, No. 2, pp. 141-191.

Epstein, Paul (1986), 'Pattern Structure and Process in Steve Reich's Piano Phase', The Musical Quarterly 72/4: pp. 494-502.

Everett, Yayoi Uno (2006), The Music of Louis Andriessen (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press).

Fink, Robert (2005), Repeating Ourselves: American Minimalism as Cultural Practice (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press).

Gann, Kyle (1997), American Music in the Twentieth Century (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning). ___ (2006), Music Downtown: writings from the Village Voice (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press).

Glass, Philip (1978), 'Notes on Einstein on the Beach', Performing Arts Journal 2/3: 63-70. ___ (1987), The Music of Philip Glass, Robert T. Jones (ed.) (New York: Harper & Rowe).

Gopinath, Sumanth (2011), 'Reich in Blackface: Oh Dem Watermelons and Radical Minstrelsy in the 1960s', Journal of the Society for American Music 5/2: pp. 139-93.

Grimshaw, Jeremy (2011), Draw a Straight Line and Follow It: The Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Harley, Maria Anna (1998), 'Górecki and the Paradigm of the "Maternal"', The Musical Quarterly 82, No. 1, pp. 82-130.

Haskins, Rob (2005), 'Another Look at Philip Glass: aspects of harmony and formal design in early works and Einstein on the Beach', Journal of Experimental Music Studies, at (accessed 9 September 2008).

Hillier, Paul (1997), Arvo Pärt (Oxford, OUP).

Hoek, D.J. (2002), Steve Reich: A Bio-Bibliography (Westport, Greenwood Press).

Horlacher, Gretchen (2001). 'Multiple Meters and Metrical Processes in the Music of Steve Reich', Intégral Vol. 14/15, pp. 265-297.

Howard, Luke B. (1998),'Motherhood, "Billboard", and the Holocaust: perceptions and receptions of Górecki's Symphony No. 3', The Musical Quarterly 82/1: pp. 131-59.

Johnson, Timothy A. (1994), 'Minimalism: style, aesthetic, or technique?', The Musical Quarterly 78/4: pp. 742-73.

Johnson, Tom (1991), The Voice of New Music, 1972-1983: a collection of articles originally published in the Village Voice (Eindhoven: Het Apollohuis).

Kostelanetz, Richard (ed.) (1997), Writings on Glass (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press).

Leydon, Rebecca, (2002) 'Towards a Typology of Minimalist Tropes', Music Theory Online 8/4, at (accessed 11 July 2011).

May, Thomas (ed.) (2006), The John Adams Reader: Essential Writings on an American Composer (Pompton Plains, NJ: Hal Leonard).

Maycock, Robert (2002), Glass: a portrait (London: Sanctuary Publishing).

Mertens, Wim (1983), American Minimal Music: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, trans. J. Hautekiet (London: Kahn & Averill).

Nyman, Michael (1999), Experimental Music, Cage and Beyond (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

O'Brien, Kerry (2014), 'Hearing Disorientation in Steve Reich's Drumming (1971)', Mitteilungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung 27: pp. 36-40.

Potter, Keith (2011), '"Drummed Out?" What Steve Reich did after Drumming', Mitteilungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung 24: pp. 35-41. (2000), Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). , Kyle Gann and Pwyll ap Siôn (eds.) (2013), The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing).

Prendergast, Mark (2000), The Ambient Century (London, Bloomsbury).

Reich, Steve (2002), Writings on Music 1965-2000, Paul Hillier (ed.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Roeder, John (2003), 'Beat-Class Modulation in Steve Reich's Music', Music Theory Spectrum 25/2: pp. 275-304. ___ (2011), 'Transformational Aspects of Arvo Pärt's Tintinnabuli Music', Journal of Music Theory 55/1: pp. 1-41.

Scherzinger, Martin (2005), 'Curious Intersections, Uncommon Magic: Steve Reich's It's Gonna Rain', Current Musicology 79/80: pp. 207-44.

Schwarz, K. Robert (1996), Minimalists (London: Phaidon Press Limited). ___ (1990), 'Process vs. Intuition in the Recent Works of Steve Reich and John Adams', American Music 8/3: pp. 245-73.

Strickland, Edward (1993), Minimalism: Origins (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press).

Suzuki, Dean Paul (1991), 'Minimal Music: its evolution as seen in the works of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and La Monte Young, and its relation to the visual arts', PhD diss. (University of Southern California).

Thomas, Adrian (1997), Górecki (London: Oxford University Press).

Trochimczyk, Maja (ed.) (2002), The Music of Louis Andriessen (New York: Routledge).

Warburton, Daniel (1988), 'A Working Terminology for Minimal Music', Intégral 2: 135-59.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules