Giving Listening its Time...

In Zen they say: If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, try it for eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on. Eventually one discovers that it's not boring at all but very interesting.


–John Cage



Created in the 1960s

By a trained musician

Used readily-available analog technology

Created in the composer’s home

25-45 minutes


1)  What are the raw sound materials (not the tools) used?

2)  What did you hear that suggested which technologies might be used?

3)  What compositional process (not technology) might be used?  What did you hear that suggested it?



Alvin Lucier

I Am Sitting in a Room

Terry Riley

In C


Steve Reich


Come Out (1966)
It's Gonna Rain (1965)

Pendulum Music (1968)

Violin Phase (1979)

Steve Reich & Alvin Lucier

Steve Reich


Pendulum Music (1968)


Philip Glass


Einstein on the Beach (1976)

adding an 1/8th-note, from "Train 1"


Working Backwards to Minimalism

Go as far as possible using minimal materials


But not necessarily sparse or spare results


  • Uses simple musical building-blocks assembled into larger works
  • Process is important and audible
  • Strong sense of repetition and pulse
  • Return to more focused musical materials
  • Desire to connect with broader audiences

In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities.


–The only instructions given by Satie in "Vexations"

Erik Satie
Vexations (1893-94)

Giving Listening its Time...

The experience over the 18 hours and 40 minutes of those repetitions was very different from the thought that they were going to happen. For them to actually happen, to actually live through it, was a different thing.


...I felt different than I had ever felt before. And furthermore the environment that I looked out upon looked unfamiliar even though I had been living there. In other words, I had changed and the world had changed...


–John Cage, after organizing the 1963 first performance of Erik Satie's "Vexations" (1893)


By Brian



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