Unheard minimalisms: the functions of the minimalist technique in film scores
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Minimalist music has now become ubiquitous in film, found in everything from PBS advertisements to big-budget studio movies like A Beautiful Mind. This presents a number of questions: what kind of films use the technique, how does its deployment compare to the classical Hollywood score, and how does it function? This dissertation is intended to address these issues by examining what minimalism has come to mean in films that have become part of popular culture. I detail how the musical technique intersects with the model of the classical Hollywood film score, and, by exploring the film music of Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, and "nonminimalist" composers, give a history of minimalism's use on the score from its avant-garde origins in the 1960s to its commercial appropriations in the 1990s and 2000s. Utilizing Nicholas Cook's idea of "enabling similarity" from his book Analysing Musical Multimedia and Rebecca Leydon's minimalist tropes from her Music Theory Online article "Toward a Typology of Musical Tropes," I provide detailed analyses of ten films employing minimalist techniques (Koyaanisqatsi, The Terminator, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Solaris, Kundun, A Beautiful Mind, Proof, The Truman Show, Gattaca, and The Thin Blue Line), showing how musical meaning in these films is tied to minimalism's particular stylistic attributes. Through the repeated linkage of minimalism with the Other, the mathematical mind, and dystopia, these meanings have the possibility--like the socially-encoded meanings of the classical score--of becoming enculturated.