Review

Erik Hall

Canto Ostinato (Simeon Ten Holt)

Western Vinyl • 2023

Europe did not stand out much as a continent of minimal music in the 20th century. It was more of a thing in America, even if the inspirations could often be found in old Europe, all the way back to the Middle Ages. For instance, Steve Reich was heavily influenced by Peronin’s repetitive early forms of polyphony. Nevertheless, a few examples of minimal music did exist on the continent, most notably from Michael Nyman. The Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt, on the other hand, pursued a typical post-war avant-garde career by first working with serial techniques and such. Completed in 1979 and written for four pianos, his »Canto ostinato« works extremely confidently with harmonies and various repetitions, and is certainly reminiscent of fellow composers like Terry Riley (»In C«) or Steve Reich (»Four Pianos«). His ostinato, the continuous bass figure, harks back to older traditions, see Peronin. One might also think of Renaissance pieces like Claudio Monteverdi’s »Lamento della ninfa«. The American musician Erik Hall has now taken on the »Canto ostinato« again, employing three different keyboard instruments. Besides a grand piano, he uses a Fender Rhodes and a Hammond organ. This makes the music, in which the melodies continue to spin in a constant variation of the underlying theme, flow yet more dynamically through the constant shifts in the sound. Incidentally, Simeon ten Holt himself spoke of »genetic code« instead of »Minimal Music«.