When the roots of minimalism are discussed, LaMonte Young and Terry Riley are often (correctly) among those given the credit for setting in motion three of its enduring principles: stasis, tonal stability and repetition.
It’s just as well that nobody ever points to Elliott Carter as a seminal figure – he’d probably have a cow.
But Riley and Young were certainly familiar with Carter’s work from 1950, the Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for Woodwind Quartet. Etude No. 7 is a drone on G – nothing more, nothing less. In Etude No. 3, the four instruments just play the three notes of a soft D-Major chord.
At the time, Carter was beginning to experiment with a new approach to musical time. He was thinking outside the traditional grid of rhythm and meter, trying to get to the root of the ways in which we perceive the passage of time.
Of course, the direction Carter went would never be confused with minimalism, but one can easily imagine those radical wind etudes hovering in the subconscious of a couple of young, disenchanted composers looking for new ideas.
Elliott Carter the illegitimate father of minimalism? Just please don’t tell him I said so.