Session/Séance 5i: MusCan Panel 3 Minimalisms

Session/Séance 5i: MusCan Panel 3. Friday/vendredi 26 May 2017, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm, EJB 224.
     Chair: PATRICK NICKLESON (University of Toronto)


1. Sharing with the World: Clarifying the Connections Between Betty Freeman and Steve Reich
     Twila Bakker, Independent Scholar

Betty Freeman (1921–2009) was well known for her role as a patron of American art and music in the 20th century. According to her own reckoning between 1964 and 2005 she provided 425 grants, commissions (sole and partial), and general financial assistance to 82 composers, performers, recording projects, copyists and other “music people”. She gave 36 grants to Steve Reich (1936– ), making him the most frequently funded of any of her music people. Such a relationship was unusual for both parties. Freeman’s approach to commissioning was diverse, widespread and was not frequently duplicated. Reich too, as he became more established as a composer – as is reflected in his score commissions – tended to draw monetary support from different people and organizations rather than returning to one funding source repeatedly. Utilising documents from Freeman’s personal papers housed in the Special Collections and Archives of the University of California San Diego, I seek to uncover the intricacies of Reich and Freeman’s working relationship. How was this relationship established? What was it about Reich’s music or persona that drew Freeman’s support? How was Freeman’s support manifest, was it simply monetary or did it have additional musical or promotional aspects as well? Beginning with Freeman’s outlook on patronage and moving through the variety of her financial support to the social network she established, this investigation will clarify how Freeman was a significant, yet relatively unknown, influence on Reich’s career for the last quarter of the twentieth-century.


2. Minimalism in the “Wild Zone”? Compromise and Counter-Hegemony in Ann Southam’s Rivers
     Sarah Feltham, Independent Scholar

In the decades after 1945, many Canadian composers embraced a project of cultural-nationalist modernization and ‘decolonization,’ and sought to participate in international modernist or postmodernist movements. At the same time, however, these composers frequently expressed ambivalence about modernist (American and European) notions of canonicity, progress, and prestige. English Canadian composers in this context would produce music that is stylistically, technically, and ideologically flexible – a kind of double-voiced discourse that imports or utters the sounds of the modernist metropolis, but inflects, unsettles, and strikes compromises with the ideologies and power structures that accompany those sounds. This paper situates the minimalist works of Canadian composer Ann Southam in this context. Drawing on critical discussions of music and visual art, I establish a basis for understanding minimalism as a distinctively American and implicitly masculine practice. With particular focus on Rivers (1979- 81), I then explore the ways in which Southam ‘clears space’ in minimalist practice for feminist or Canadian nationalist expression. I argue that Southam’s emphasis on the tactility and repetition of her minimalist keyboard compositions as a metaphor for “women’s work” contrasts the mechanical or industrial aesthetic of American minimalist visual art discussed by Karl Beveridge and Anna Chave, while her peripheral cultural position, perhaps paradoxically, gives her the freedom to dissolve a presumptive boundary between modern and postmodern by merging serial and minimal techniques.

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