BBC4 have a two-part series on Minimalism. Part one last night focused on its origins in fifties California and in the work of two composers: La Monte Young, who is interviewed dressed as the Oldest Biker In the Gang, and the guruesque Terry Riley. Young is the more enigmatic, allied to the visual art world of Yoko Ono and writing pieces that consisted of instructions to start a fire (the urbane but slightly too well-dressed Charles Hazlewood, our guide, recreates this – and hey next time you have a barbecue you can too.) Riley is more down to earth, cheerfully admitting he hit gold with In C and hasn’t written anything of compareable power since. Ragas, phasing and lots more.
There’s an all-star band who recreate tape loops and have a bash at in C : Adrian Utley from Portishead shows off his collection of vintage reel-to-reels, and Will from Goldfrapp appears in the line up. It is pretty much uncovered stuff from start to finish, and towards the end we get to Steve Reich – who features with Philip Glass in part two next week.
It’s what the licence fee should be paying for.