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Minimalism: The Algorithm

Name: Steve Reich • Rating: Way Cool • Format: Online Software • Play

Minimalism: the algorithm. Quite rightly, many audio-games are intended as teaching tools. There is perhaps no better way to impart complex information than to lend a sense of play and discovery to the matter at hand. Few audio-games get as close to the musical heart of their subject matter as does the Minneapolis-based Walker Art Center’s online tribute to minimalist composer Steve Reich. The game is one of three applications produced as part of the museum’s SonicFlux project, “a series of online explorations into the ideas of artists and composers of our time” (the other two cultural figures being John Cage and Yoko Ono).

Much of Reich’s music involves attention to matters of reverberation, slight alterations in pitch and the overlapping of rhythmic patterns. SonicFlux initiates the user in the rudiments of these creative tools with a game that systematically introduces new opportunities for music making, along with attendant insight, at each successive level — showing what Reich often does in this build up of a score. At the entry level, one is presented with a “percussive ring” (help text is provided throughout) that allows the production of a series of tones, reminiscent of a mallet instrument. The second level introduces “phase shifts,” and subsequent levels allow further effects. The game was designed and programmed by Justin Bakse and Justin Braem in collaboration with Series Producer/designer, Trudy Lane.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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