Holy minimalism might be the word that describes Tavener’s music most precisely, but his musical insights certainly is not “reducible to one-dimensional labels such as ‘holy minimalism’”. One might consider the lack of complexities in the minimalism by Tavener “felt like a letdown, a yawn after a coughing fit. It didn’t flatter the intellect.” Indeed, I see the point that minimalist music is not favourable to some: there is even a scientific evidence that woman at their most fertile is more attracted to men who compose complex music.
Minimalism is characterised with the belligerently loud line (rather than tuneful melody) and industrial machinery sound like regular beat over and over. With its tendency on largely decorative pattern-making, minimalism appeal to the eye rather than ear particularly in its early days. Unlike conventional minimalism, melodies; simple heirmologic, complex sticheraric, and a number of set model, with improvisational possibilities play a central role in Tavener’s holy minimalism together with somewhat Jazzy rhythms.
Tavener’s music, however, reached to people who usually do not listen to classical music. There must be something special about holy minimalism. What brings out this cultural issue? Has holy minimalism acted upon bridging a gap between avant-garde and popular culture, or what? This is the topic for another day’s blog posting.
Tavener’s works written throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s illustrate his responses to the sounds of musical modernism including Stravinskian serialism. Besides his stylistic insights into the Orthodox began from following the Stravinskian footage. This is an interesting point because Stravinsky never discussed issues of faith openly, yet his music inspired Tavener into holy minimalism in the 1970s. Tavener’s music, however, neither purely represent Orthodox, like most religious music nor merely concern noting but structure and technique, as musical modernism. Furthermore, it is notable how Tavener talks about his compositions; having already been converted to the Orthodoxy, he admitted that “serialism and system were still knocking about” (Keeble 1999) within his musical language.
Tavener’s music is claimed to be rooted in his psychology. Although his faith towards the Orthodox was sincere, his free spirit; a so-called artistic type of personality, made his music speak out.
Blurred lines of holy minimalism derive from avant-garde technique combined with his artistic personality with the flavour of Orthodox. Perhaps, the most suitable way to enjoy Tavener’s holy minimalism is to perceive it with an open mind, bearing in mind “art is an expression not of the individual, but of the transcendental” (Dudgeon 2003), as he claimed.