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Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass (Music in the Twentieth Century) Paperback – 25 Apr 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st Pbk. Ed. with Minor Revisions edition (25 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521015014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521015011
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 2.1 x 24.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'… an energetic, readable, cogently argued tome, cram-packed with info … Four Musical Minimalists is impeccably researched, written with enthusiasm but without evangelical defensiveness.' Gramophone

'… a massive achievement, and an absolutely essential resource for anyone interested in the history of minimalism.' Wire

'… an indispensable and meticulous survey.' Musical Times

Book Description

This book offers the most detailed account so far of the early works of Young, Riley, Reich and Glass, putting extensive discussion of the music into a biographical perspective.

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First Sentence
La Monte Young's career divides geographically into three parts: his childhood and undergraduate years mainly in Los Angeles; his time as a graduate student at Berkeley, in the San Francisco Bay Area; and the period that saw his establishment as both composer and performer, as well as concert organiser, teacher and much else, following his move to New York City. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Sutton on 28 Jun 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an important book, in so far as it is the only one published so far that encompasses and looks at the 'general' techniques of the four most influential minimalists.

Although brilliantly written (it doesn't, to its credit, feel like an academic book) It feels as though Potter has nothing else to say about the works themselves. He just looks at the basic compositional development of the composers and traces this to there earliest most successfull work (e.g 'Music for 18 musicians' for Reich and 'Einstein on the Beach' for Glass) and how the techniques have been applied.

This is, as i've said, an important book in so far as it's a rough guide to 'Minimalist' music, however it doesn't attempt to analyse or find approaches to analyse, talk about or contextulise Minimal music then and now.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
music theory exposition, and history too 22 Mar 2001
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Potter's book will be best appreciated by those with a much better understanding of music theory than I. However, I learned something about the personal and musical history of so-called "minimalism." (Potter falls prey to some extent to the problem of reifying an abstraction -- having first grouped some things together into a category, then searching for the true meaning of the category.) Is there a torch passed, so to speak, from Young to Riley to Reich to Glass? Glass is the only one to adamantly deny it, but Potter documents the basis for seeing it just that way (including Reich's influence on Glass).

One aspect I am keen to know more about, but which Potter doesn't stress overly much, is the striking confluence of non-Western influences. Young and Riley are both disciples of the North Indian master singer, Pandit Pran Nath, who died in 1996. Reich studied both African drumming as well as the gamelan music of Bali. Glass studied Indian music, after being immersed in serialism. With the European "classical" tradition at an impasse at the turn of the millennium, it seems only natural that the future would lie in creative fusions and combinations with other traditions. (Not a very original idea, I realize, as evidenced by the recent emphasis of the Kronos Quartet among others.) Minimalism seems by now to be another style that passed into history and critical assessments -- is there an opening there that is being missed?
5 of 17 people found the following review helpful
makes you ponder what this was all about 19 Jan 2005
By scarecrow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The phenomenon of minimalist music I think is better understood from its initial stages, for after market popularity sets in the theoretical fascinations seem to dissipate, seem to become rationalized away as unimportant and cumbersome. If you take all four praticioners here, to my mind only their early works seem to hold any interest at all,it is only the only works that have a "longevity" factor, where we can still find points of interests. For it was in the early works that carried the weight into what we have now.
Musical minimalism as well is a kind of misnomer in that the term began in the visual arts and if you go there you will find the term and its results and achievments has a much more vigorous base of contemplation and export. There simply is more important things happening there, as Donald Judd,the minimalist shrine of cubes and geometric shapes in an old Army base in Marfa Texas or the flourescent lighting schemes of Dan Flavin, the powerful sculptural plates of Richard Serra,or painters abound as Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella and Bridget Riley. There simply is no comparison with the level of conceptual depth and gestural focus, what art is suppose to do, what it did, and how the concept is engaged,and how it responds to its context and art history,or a temporality (how for instance the spirit, ir-religious of course is engaged in Richard Serra, his plates where the human mind simply stands there engaged in peace with his own existence or sense of space and time). Musical minimalism has no equivalent, and it is a shame for it could have had this. La Monte Young's "Well-Tuned Piano", a 9 hour work with just intonation tunings of the piano comes close to the temporal vigours of Judd's shrine I beleive.
With the introduction of opera in the works of Glass well now we are in another dimension, for Glass resorted to traditional classical structures of opera, duets, trios, quartets, (as in Aknathen) this is no longer innovative means. Potter's book draws light on this paradigm here makes you think of these issues what minimalism did and what it is now. Was it simply a fad?, or did it produce sustainable music?, music we can return to once or twice, or was minimalism simply "grist" for the mill of the market, one time, make the cash, take the money and run. Again the importance of minimalism is found in its early repertoire, Reich fascinating threadbare music for four woodblocks was all he needed to write to proclaim a status, or Glass's early music with Farfisa organs and saxophones,"Music in Fifths" or Riley's "In C", or his "Keyboard Studies" are all relevant pieces we can return to unpretenciously.

The late Morton Feldman is of course not here. He had intense knowledge of the visual arts world and his last works sought to reclaim this paradigm for music (his Second String Quartet, and Triadic Memories, For Chritian Wolff) are works scaling long durational lengths a place where minimalism in music seems to be now a beginning point not an end. Had Feldman lived I think he would have written even longer works. Of course Cage's massive work for organ now being realized in Halberstadt Germany, a work lasting years is also a step in the right direction.
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