Charlemagne PalestineMinimalist musician/composer
Underappreciated minimalist pioneer.
Brooklyn-born composer and performer Charlemagne Palestine may not be as well known as fellow minimalist pioneers like Steve Reich, La Monte Young, and Philip Glass, but at its best, his work is just as idiosyncratic and striking and his ideas just as revolutionary. In his youth, Palestine undertook cantorial training, and he has incorporated his voice into some of his compositions, but it was his piano pieces that made this radical experimentalist an underground phenomenon in the 1970s. He pioneered a minimalist piano technique called “strumming,” in which the same series of notes is repeated and gradually expanded upon, gaining in intensity as the force of the “strumming” increases and a whole new world of unusual overtones is created. Far from the cerebral exercises some minimalist pieces can become, the visually flamboyant Palestine’s work is an undeniably visceral endeavor full of emotion and urgency. Over the years, he’s adapted his techniques to everything from organ to carillon, and performances of his ensemble pieces have been conducted by acclaimed figures like John Adams. In the ‘90s and 2000s, Palestine’s unorthodox sound was embraced by younger musical renegades, resulting in collaborations with everyone from electronica artist Pan Sonic to post-punk iconoclast Michael Gira.