How can anyone like minimalist music?

My best friend, who I am going to be living with beginning in August, is a lover of minimalist music. Specifically, Phillip Glass and Steve Reich. He sometimes plays songs on the stereo that seem to go on for fifteen or twenty minutes with the same arpeggio repeated over and over again and nothing more. He also often plays such things on the piano, very loudly and with astonishing concentration. He can sit at the piano for fifteen minutes banging out the same Phillip Glass arpeggire, which drives everyone insane.

Now, I am not really concerned about his constant playing of the music (which I can always ask him to stop if it’s bothering me) as I am fascinated and intrigued by his ability to ENJOY said music. I can’t understand how anyone could enjoy minimalist music. It is widely criticized for being boring, repetitive, and pretentious, and I believe that these critics are correct. When I listen to music, I never want it to be predictable. I need to have something that stands out, whether that be a unique chord progression, a melodic bass line (Paul McCartney, Phil Lesh or Peter Cetera,) a driving beat (I love electronica like Wagon Christ and Mr. Scruff,) good lyrics (Pavement, Elvis Costello,) subtle acoustic melodies (Kings of Convenience,) clever hip-hop (Atmosphere,) just about any genre of music will have something that I enjoy. But I can’t fucking dig this minimalist thing. I don’t get the appeal. It is so repetitive and goes on for so long - what can this guy possibly be seeing in it?

I enjoy much of it very much. Glass performing new piano works is the only live concert I’ve attended this year. I enjoy the trance state it sometimes evokes, the sense of music as extending over or referring to a long duration rather than a short time, and listening for subtle shifts, variants, and changes. This sort of composition makes me think about the structure of music, plots and storytelling, and culturally-influenced differences in attention span and concentration. There are passages in *Einstein on the Beach * and other works by Glass that consistently evoke strong emotion in me, not for reasons associated with the narrative elements typical of lyrical music or program music. I don’t find it at all boring, though I suppose that you could find me pretentious for saying so. That’s not to say that I don’t like other kinds of music, but it’s not a competition between musical genres, right?

I take it you’ve never gotten addicted to Minesweeper, then…

I hear ya, man. Give me something with a melody, for God’s sake. I can stand some of Philip Glass’s work (specifically the pieces used in Truman Show) but for the most part it’s all just a waste of time, to me.

I kind of equate it to the electronica/techno stuff that kids are into nowadays… very repetitive, not much substance to it, and I walk away with hurting ears. YMMV, but I’ll pass, thanks.

To give your final question a WAG, maybe it’s even more similar to today’s pop music than I thought, and people are attracted to the “groove” of the piece rather than the melodic aspect of it. Sort of “trancelike”, if you will. I won’t.

I grew up listening to my mother play “Songs from Liquid Days” over and over. It is sort of like… Philip Glass for beginners. There are lyrics, and sometimes, there’s almost a melody. Plenty of arpeggios still. “Good tooth-brushing music,” as the Over The Hedge guys once said.

I dunno. Because it pushes my buttons in an enjoyable way that has nothing to do with the intellectual pretensions of the composers and everything to do with an abstract aesthetic appreciation. I couldn’t put my finger on any one thing but it’s just satisfying stuff. It’s got texture even where it doesn’t have melody and it has all kinds of interelations going on that are not big or flashy or obvious but tend to underly whole pieces. Kind of like watching waves interplay.