Beckwith Artist-in-Residence George Lopez performed an evening of minimalist music, including works by Philip Glass, Avro Part and John Adams, for the Thursday Night Salon at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art last week. Students, faculty and community members attended the event, which was put on in conjunction with the current museum exhibition, “Richard Tuttle: A Print Retrospective.”

“As is quintessential of [Lopez], he not only brings together music and art, but also brings together members of the community,” said Anne Goodyear, co-director of the Museum. 

Lopez performed prototypes of minimalist music, ranging from pieces composed with a 12-tone system to those with small recurring repetitions. According to Lopez, minimalist music involves the “emancipation of dissonance,” and a “movement away from tonality,” using fewer elements to create form in sound. The repetitions in the music help keep the audience oriented as they listen to this non-traditional musical form. 

The concept of stripping away the non-essential elements in music is mirrored in Tuttle’s minimalist and conceptual art. 

“There’s power in the small,” said Lopez, getting up from his piano to point to Tuttle’s prints.
Lopez sprinkled discussion of the pieces he performed throughout the evening, relating them to the art in the gallery and how both drew on minimalist ideals. The minimalist movement, both in art and music, he explained, was about artistic endeavors at the fringe of society. The notion of drawing meaning from the barest art forms defied the ideals of mainstream postwar art.

Minimalism, Lopez continued, fosters the idea that art can and should be experienced directly, without mediation.  It encourages people to experience art, whether it be visual art or music, at its surface. 

And just as the works of Satie, Glass and other minimalist artists reframe the standard musical landscape, the artwork in the Tuttle exhibit takes things out of their ordinary contexts, forcing audiences to view them in their immediacy. 

“It’s the idea of a thing unto itself,” said Lopez. “The artwork itself is making you do something.”

The concept of tuning into “the small” resonated for Claire Day ’18. 

“I liked the concept that the ‘big picture’ is important, and that’s what we train ourselves to think about. But recognizing the small is important too,” said Day.

Lopez suggested that our perspective often tends to overgeneralize. According to him, minimalism is about “waking up to the detail” that gets clouded by the human desire to categorize. The gathering of people at an event like the Thursday Night Salon is all part of experiencing art.

Lopez also raised awareness to the custom of applauding at the end of a piece. Clapping is a way to expel the energy with which the music filled us, he said. Lopez then asked the audience to question whether or not applause felt like a natural response to the the works performed, which tended to create more of an “experiential balance.”

Along with piano music by Lopez, the event featured special performances from violinist Hannah Renedo ’18 and Assistant Professor of Dance Charlotte Griffin.

Jude Marx ’18 was impressed with the overall tone of the event. 

“I was surprised by how emotionally moved I was,” said Marx. “I expected it to be more of an intellectual engagement.”