The owner of a discotheque in Philadelphia is responsible for the first full contact between minimal music and popular music. In 1968, he commissioned the minimal music pioneer Terry Riley to compose a kind of signature melody for his nightclub. But instead of writing something of his own, Riley took a recently published R'n'B number and turned it to the left: He completely reassembled Harvey Avernes' three-minute "You're No Good" using tape recorders and a sine wave generator. At the end there was a 21-minute freak-out - the first remix in pop history. Riley had transformed the soulful source material into a psychedelic sound collage, in which verse and chorus intertwine, the chorus is staccato-like mounted one behind the other and the vocal tracks are multiplied and arranged time-shifted like a canon. Electronic noise and the sound of the spooling tape also found their way into the processing. No one took note of this groundbreaking work, of course.
The Minimal Music or Repetitive Music, which developed from the beginning of the 60's mainly in New York, had taken place up to Riley's Pop-Flirt mainly in lofts, galleries and as soundtrack of experimental films. It was aimed at a culturally minded audience. Minimal Music was a radical design right from its beginnings. Young US artists cut the connection to the European music tradition and its concentration on harmony and melody. New horizons opened up for them on other continents. For example, they studied Indian classical music or the music of West Africa and Bali. One of these seekers, La Monte Young, became a disciple of the Indian singer Pandit Pran Nath (1918-1996); Young later added another adept to him: Terry Riley, who was signed to CBS at that time and had already released the acclaimed work "A Rainbow In Curved Air", left everything behind and followed the master to India.
Repetition of simple basic pattern
One of the most characteristic features that composers like Young and Riley adopted for their work was the repetition of simple basic patterns. With Young and Riley only particularly pronounced at the beginning of their careers, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, as well as subsequent representatives of this quite inconsistent movement, including David Borden, Tom Johnson and Jon Gibson, experimented almost obsessively with the element of repetition.
It was this element, in particular, that drew the attention of popular music to the avant-garde activity of the students. The first rock band to make proven use of minimal music techniques was The Velvet Underground. John Cale, sound architect of their revolutionary first two records, had played the electric viola at La Monte Young's infamous feedback improvisations until the mid-60s. Therefore the Velvets were even more influenced by the radical aesthetics of the early Young-work, by its machine-like rhythms, which even pointed ahead to industrial rock, than by the repetition excesses of a Steve Reich.
The musicians of Krautrock also quickly recognized the explosive power of minimalism. Bands like CAN or Faust adapted the monotonous rhythms of repetitive music. But it was above all the pioneers of the electronic orientation of Krautrock who devoted themselves to the possibilities of sound expression. Not least because their US colleagues relied early on electronic sound generators. For example, the synthesizer plays a central role in the work of Glass and Riley. In works by Tangerine Dream ("Ricochet", "Stratosfear"), Popol Vuh ("Brothers of the Shadow - Sons of Light"), Klaus Schulze ("Mirage", the Wahnfried albums, "Continuum") or New! ("New!") the influences can be clearly discerned. From Neu!, Kraftwerk and Manuel Göttsching's "E2-E4", the minimalist impulses of the 80s finally went straight to the iconoclasts of techno, which would simply not be conceivable without minimal music.