"Eastern" influences in 20th C Western Music


Exoticism: infatuation with foreign cultures; associated with Romantic age; importation


Folklorism: study and use of one’s indigenous musical heritage


Early examples:

1. Janizary music (bodyguard of Turkish sultans) known to European courts from mid-1700’s

    • bass drum, cymbals, triangle
    • Gluck, Mozart, Haydn (Military Symphony), Beethoven, Weber, Rossini

2. France-mid 19th C as a melting pot for exotic imporatations

    • exploration, Napoleon’s campaigns, Napoleon III’s marriage to Eugenie de Montijo

    • Saint-Saens (Algeria, eastern modes); Bizet’s Carment (Iberian Peninsula)

    • Glinka emphasized potential use of native Russian materials, as well as vitalizing capacity of
    Oriental, Spanish materials in melody, rhythm, color

    • influenced Glinka, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Stravinsky

3. Paris World Exhibition of 1889

    • javanese gamelan influenced a generation of French composers, including Debussy, Ravel, Dukas,
    Roussel, etc.


    • inspired by painter’s works with eastern themes

    • musical influences conceded to have taken place on visit to 1889 Paris World Exhibition

    • pentatonic scales used as elements of color, contrast, timbre

    • Russian, Spanish, English folk songs


    Backgrounds: colorist, formal-constructive alternatives

        1. Debussy, other early 20th C European composers

        2. Messiaen-color, rhythm [studied Greek and Hindu patterns, forms]

        3. America
            • interest in Pacific cultures; California-based composers

            • Cowell, McPhee, Lou Harrison, Harry Partch

            • Cowell studied non-Eurpean musics with ethnomusicologists in Berlin; interest with new
            sounds shifted to exploratoin of ethnic music from standpoint of sound and organization;

John Cage

    • early works for percussion, prepared piano; timbre, formal organization

    • antecedents for minimalism in such works as Amores

    • interest in eastern [Indian] materials broadened to encompass philosophical approach to
    composition [anti-ego]

East vs. West


        • "Genius" composers, individual approach: no other piece like this-only way to reproduce it is to
        play it from written music;

        • goal orientation (everything gets better and better);

        • rhythmic system is system of ratios; divided rhythms

        • abstract forms (sonata form-nothing to do with emotions, physical principles)

        • written transmission of information (hands-on)

        • emphasis upon harmony, harmonic progressions

        • 2 scales (major, minor)


        • representative approach; no big stars; anti-ego

        • cycles of time;

        • additive rhythms; influx principle

        • traditional forms; nova rosta=9 emotions

        • oral tradition

        • emphasis upon melody, rhythm; no sense of chord progression: stationary chord, drone, tonal

        • 72 scales (Northern India)

Tala-rhythmic pattern; table; assymetric groups [2’s & 3’s]; sum

Raga-melodic pattern, basic melodic form that implies emotions, certain times of day, note embellishments; sitar

Drone-like a tonic; sustained; tambura


Interpretive ideas:

    • Music which uses very few elements over a long period of time with very fine degrees of contrast

    • aspect of dealing with time

    • trance music, steady-state music

    • influenced by Cowell, Cage; sustained or repetitive use of simple materials; Eastern philosophical
        basis; reduction of materials, emphasis on repetitive schemes, stasis

    • Indian influences:

        1) drone (tambura)

        2) rhythmic cycles (talas; tabla)

        3) melodic improvisation (raga; gamaka [ornamentation]; relates to 9 Indian moods, emotive

    • heavily repeated materials using principally Western instruments and tunings; just intonation,
        simple interval ratios

    • Eastern/popular crossovers in ‘60’s prompted experimental/popular (concert)

    • avante-garde is dead; return to simplicity: pitch, duration and silence

    • endorsed neither total control or chance as an exclusive credo; took the best of both

    • multi-cultural processes, techniques, concepts, instruments

    • idea of process; "anti-masterpiece" mentality

    • perceived aimlessness from Eastern/ New Age

    • represents search for a common style; analogous to pre-20th C

    • concert music/popular culture; composer as performer

    • John Cage: shift in the way American is being composed, performed, appreciated

    • individual perception

    • "packaging" of ideas

    • go with the moment, rather than try to recall previous relationships

    • Relate minimalist compositions to Eastern concepts, ideas, structures, procedures

    • reaction against manipulative types of music (serialism)

    • emphasis upon rhythmic processes, structures

    • static, trancelike

Lamont Young (b. 1935) regarded as "father" of minimalism

Terry Riley (b. 1935)

    -slow expansions or reductions occuring over great lengths of time

    In C, Rainbow in Curved Air

Steve Reich (b. 1936)

    • "phase" process from idea of gradual nonsynchronization; tape loop

    Come Out, Music for 18 Musicians, Violin Phase, Different Trains

    Eastern influences in Come Out

        1. rhythmic cycle; drone; motivic fragments evolve from voice/tape processes

        2. static harmony or environment; stationary quality, repetition

        3. individual perception is as important as composer’s intentions

Philip Glass (b. 1937)

    -bar line sets stage for changing meters for different lengths of repeating material

    -additive rhythms

    -studied North Indian, Morrocan, Boulanger, Shankir

    -pared everything down to basics, built back up again

    -make audience aware of the passing of time

    -moment concept

    Music in Fifths

    Einstein on the Beach (w/ Robert Wilson: staging & designs)

        -modern mythological basis

        -additive process, rhythm

        -4-5 hours

        -opera with no arias, recitatives, etc.

        -Dreamscape: 20th C mythology

        -no real plot; rather, a series of different scenes

        -dance: minimalist style; motorized

        -violinist: Einsein; everyone dressed like Einstein

        -Einstein’s role: midway between orchestra and performers; witness of stage events

        -emphasis on passing of time

        -scientists unleashed social powers which couldn’t be dealt with

        -dream-like atmosphere

        -trains: Einstein played with trains as a boy; explained theory of relativity


• like minimalism; however, less emphasis upon rhythic pulse

• associated with nature

Brian Eno