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The Romancing of Minimalism

In the hands of pianist Theo Alexander

It’s not for no reason that the music of Theo Alexander appears in SoundCloud playlists on occasion alongside that of Nils Frahm. Like Frahm, Alexander balances a solo acoustic piano style between neo-classicalism and post-minimalism — that is, between an adherence to a longstanding instrumental literature, and an affection for a more recent one. What makes both musicians’ work trenchant today is how minimalism, once upon a time an avant-garde school, has become, through film and TV scores as well as through the popular rise of its founding composers, a romantic form.

The pulsing of Alexander’s right hand at the opening of “Disappearing Altogether” might have been a comment on mechanization and formal purity had it been composed and performed 30 years ago, but today it is the beating heart of a romantic figure. That Alexander can balance a percussive instinct with, as the piece proceeds, a penchant for melodic flourishing is very much to his credit.

Another thing Alexander shares with Frahm is a penchant for putting the mic very close to the piano. Just listen at 50 seconds in — when the piece takes its sole, momentary pause — to how the silence isn’t pure silence, but instead a careful framing, the waveforms of a handful of notes bending and bleeding and fading together, true to the track’s title.

“Disappearing Altogether” is from a forthcoming album titled Irresolution. Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/theoalexander. More from Theo Alexander, who is based in London, England, at theoalexander.bandcamp.com and theo-alexander.com. I first heard the track when I was, briefly, giving the service submithub.com a try.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , / Comment: 1 ]

One Comment

  1. icastico
    [ Posted July 13, 2016, at 9:01 am ]

    Lovely piece. I have been focused on the piano, and particularly solo piano, a lot lately. As a drummer it is an interesting transition as some of the same elements that work on trap set translate directly. High-note to high-hat like this piece, for instance. Really highlights how this is a percussion instrument.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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