A Baroque Minimalism with Gregory Spears

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The music of composer Gregory Spears draws from such disparate influences as early music, minimalism and modern electronica. His 2010 Requiem, for instance, included medieval troubadour harp alongside electric organ, voices and recorder. Spears has collaborated with So Percussion, Eighth Blackbird, NOW Ensemble and JACK quartet among others.  His mixtape illustrates his fascination with the parallels between early and contemporary music

A Baroque Minimalism by Gregory Spears 

I’ve been writing for baroque instruments these days, and thinking a lot about composers like Purcell, Handel, Cavalli, Gilles, and Monteverdi. While baroque music was my first love, I developed a general obsession with minimalism after walking into a rehearsal of Music for 18 Musicians at the Eastman School of Music. Since then, the idea of combining baroque and minimalist techniques has inspired much of my music.

Baroque and minimalist composers share an interest in the structural power of repetitive musical gestures. They also draw heavily on canonic imitation, pulse, and contrapuntal games to unify the music and propel it forward.  And yet the underlying DNA is different. As a result, the musical pacing, the philosophy behind the notes, and the audiences for each are often at odds.

Lately I’ve been re-listening to composers who seem to use this tension as creative fuel for their work. Here’s a list of pieces that to my ears successfully blend aspects of minimalism with aspects of music from the Baroque era (and earlier) My hope is that each of these pieces suggests a way in which musical styles from opposite ends of Western music history's timeline can merge to inspire a contemporary aesthetic.


Henryk Górecki – Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra (movement 1)
Michael Gordon; David Lang; Julia WolfeLost Objects (I Lost a Sock)
Michael Nyman - "The Disposition of the Linen," from The Draughtsman’s Contract
Steve Reich - Tehillim (movement 1)
Vladimir MartynovL’Après Midi Du Bach
Pelle Gudmundsen-HolmgreenKonstateringer
Brian Eno - Fullness of Wind
Arvo PärtMy Heart’s in the Highlands