This October marks the release of composer and performer John P. Hastings’s minimal music, a downloadable digital album of recordings of three performances, each a realization of one of Hastings short text scores. Upon initial listen, the phrase minimal music appears, on an intuitive level, to be accurate (forgetting, momentarily, the term’s more common association with the work of composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich; La Monte Young may, in fact, be a better comparison, but we’ll save that for another conversation). The soft, sustaining computer-generated sine tones found in vibrations, which are mirrored through the instrumental and vocal sounds of tone | field, seem anything if not subtle and, perhaps, uncomplicated. Indeed, one is drawn irrevocably into the sonorous materiality of the shifting yet singular sound-mass present in each of these two recordings, along with the album’s included third work, bells.
But an interest only in the immediate sonic qualities of these performances, I think, misses some key elements. A closer listen to the works in this series reveals a composer concerned with the likes of language, art, history, and reference. For one, each work included on minimal music is performed from a text score, and in each instance the score relays a set of linguistic commands to performers, which often leave significant gaps, or openings for interpretation. For example, after its initial instruction for performers to ring, the score to bells reads, “performers disperse in different directions, leaving the performance space, ringing their bells at (ir)regular intervals.” Examining this score (and the others), furthermore, reveals an aesthetics more in line with conceptual art, or, in fact, the minimalism of visual art. Hastings’s dedications, which in related scores include minimalist sculptors and artists such as Sol LeWitt and Barnett Newman, would seem to confirm this observation. In this sense, then, the album may figure as a more profoundly minimal music, paradoxically, one that hints—if only subtly—toward music’s potential for maximal interconnectedness.
—G Douglas Barrett, 2016
A selection of music culled from performances drawn from the publication, john p. hastings : scores and drawings 2010.
The recordings should ideally be listened to on a stereo speaker system (not headphones), set to a low to moderate volume level, in a comfortable environment.
released October 28, 2016
Performed by Ben Mayock, G. Douglas Barrett, Fahad Siadat, Michael Vincent Waller, Tucker Dulin, Cat Lamb, James Ross, Caroline Hastings, Andrew Smith & David Kant. Recorded at Presents Gallery and Willow Place Auditorium, Brooklyn, NY, March and November 2011. Mastered by Ben Mayock at MegaRoom Burlington, VT.