About this Piece
Just as Four Organs was a fitting start to tonight's concert, so the final piece on tonight's program is the place to end. Louis Andriessen (b. 1939) comes from a family of Dutch musical royalty. His father and brother were both composers, and while he had an immediate entree into European modernism in the beginning of his musical life, by the end of the 1960s he was a full-on Marxist. His music forms a bridge between the trance-like works of Reich and Glass and the music of David Lang. He stands on the other side of Minimalism - with its large structure and length, Workers Union (1975), written for "any loud sounding group of instruments," is an assault of repetition and dynamics. Andriessen replaces the pretty hypnosis of American Minimalism with jerky rhythms and dissonance. His music springs from his political idealism, his challenge of the status quo, his belief in struggle. He takes the influences of Stravinsky, the obsessively rhythmic form of Boogie Woogie jazz, and early Minimalism to create his own style; his music sounds like Steve Reich with his hand in a meat grinder. The score of Workers Union gives performers specific rhythms without specific pitches; the challenge of choosing their own notes for the 15-20 minute duration is part of the way the piece acts out his political intensity. Andriessen's performance notes include the instruction: "Only in the case of every player playing with such an intention that their part is an essential one, the work will succeed; just as in the political work." Workers Union was written by someone who was trying to flip Minimalism over, to put more intellectual freedom back into the process, but the piece could not have existed without the strict form of a piece like Four Organs, and so we've come full circle.
- Jessie Rothwell is the Publications Coordinator for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She also writes music, plays the oboe, and sings Bulgarian folk music.