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  • Ivan Moody


The impact of minimalism in Portugal has barely been studied; the establishment and subsequent institutionalisation of post-serial and other avant-garde thinking meant that approaches to other kinds of modernism – and whether or not ostensibly postmodernist approaches could be included in such categories – only gradually came to be employed, during the course of the 1990s. This article discusses the work of four composers, Luís Tinoco, Nuno Côrte-Real, Eugénio Rodrigues and Tiago Cutileiro, as part of this context. Their approaches are radically different from each other, but each of these four demonstrates an engagement with compositional approaches from outside what Paulo Ferreira de Castro calls the ‘sacralised avant-garde’ that is proof of the remarkable stylistic expansion evident in contemporary composition in Portugal during recent decades which is, in its turn, closely intertwined with a perceptible aesthetic and philosophical broadening in the teaching of the subject.



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1 For a useful discussion of the ramifications of the term ‘minimalism’, see Strickland, Edward, Minimalism: Orgins (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1993), pp. 114 .

2 For a panorama of contemporary music in Portugal in the twentieth century, see Moody, Ivan, ‘ Mensagens: Portuguese Music in the 20th Century’, TEMPO no. 198 (1996), pp. 210 .

3 See de Castro, Paulo Ferreira, ‘Tempo, Modernidade e Identidade no Século XX’, in Olhares sobre a História da Música em Portugal, ed. Ferreira, Manuel Pedro, Nery, Rui Vieira, de Brito, Manuel Carlos, Cymbron, Luísa and de Castro, Paulo Ferreira (Vila do Conde: Verso da História 2015), pp. 215–47, here 238–9 of.

4 Delgado, Alexandre, ‘Contra a corrente’, in Jorge Peixinho In Memoriam, ed. Machado, José (Lisbon: Caminho 2002), p. 37 : ‘…a sua grandeza ultrapassa em muito a simples capacidade de absorver tendências marcantes da época. São precisamente os aspectos em que Peixinho se afastou das correntes dominantes – fossem pós-seriais ou pós-modernistas – que o tornam um autor que resistirá ao tempo.’

5 Vargas, António Pinho, ‘Questões de Percepção’ in Sobre Música, (Oporto: Afrontamento 2002), pp. 52–3: ‘Se reconheço aqui a importância histórica do serialismo não devo esquecer o outro lado do problema: o esvaziamento progressivo dessa razão de ser histórica, o afunilamento gradual do potencial criativo dessa técnica e, acima de tudo, a sua institucionalização, quer como norma inquestionável, quer como ensino regulador.’

6 These are available on the website of the Centro de Investigação e Informação da Música Portuguesa at

7 Kramer, Jonathan D., ‘The Nature and Origins of Musical Postmodernism’ in Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought, ed. Lochhead, Judy and Auner, Joseph (New York: Routledge 2002), pp. 1326, here 13–14.

8 For a detailed discussion of the reception history of this work, see Howard, Luke B., ‘Henryk M. Górecki Symphony No.3 (1976) as a Symbol of Polish Political History’, The Polish Review 52/2 (2007), pp. 215222 .

9 Potter, Keith, Four Musical Minimalists (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 13 . The writings by Carl and Gann he refers to are, respectively, The Politics of Definition in New Music’, College Music Symposium 29 (1989), pp. 101–14 and ‘Let X=X: Minimalism v. Serialism’, Village Voice, 24 February 1987, p. 76. The quotation from Björk comes from ‘a Channel 4 TV programme on the arts in the 1990s, August 1998’.

10 Strickland, Minimalism: Orgins, p. 5.

11 O render da (van)guarda: faces da pós-modernidade (c.1990-)’, in Dez Compositores Portugueses, ed. Ferreira, Manuel Pedro (Lisbon: Dom Quixote 2005), p. 51 . The Portuguese title includes a pun on the word ‘render’, which means both ‘surrender’ and ‘change’ in the sense of the ‘changing of the guard’.

12 As Paulo Ferreira de Castro notes, ‘In this perspective, the preponderant image of the Portuguese musical 20th century … is that of an ultra-peripheral culture (from both the geographical and artistic points of view), the victim of a chronic time lapse with regard to the evolutional model of global modernity and progress created in the great international musical centres.’ ‘Tempo, Modernidade e Identidade no Século XX’, in Olhares sobre a História da Música em Portugal, 215–47, here 216: ‘Nessa perspectiva, a imagem preponderante do nosso século XX musical (…) é a de uma cultura ultra-periférica (do duplo ponto de vista geográfico e artístico), vítima de um desfasamento crónico em relação ao modelo evolutivo da modernidade global e do progresso desenhado a partir dos grandes centros internacionais musicais.’

13 The work's long gestation is discussed by Glass in an interview in the Diário de Notícias in 1998:

14 For the composer's own reflections on these questions, see the interview at

15 Joseph McLellan, Washington Post, 17 December 1994.

16 These and all subsequent quotations come from an e-mail conversation with the composer, 24 September–6 October 2015.

17 These and all subsequent quotations and observations by the composer come from an e-mail from the composer, 13 October 2015 unless otherwise indicated.

19 These and all subsequent quotations come from a telephone conversation with the composer, 7 January 2016.

20 Paulo Ferreira de Castro, ‘Tempo, Modernidade e Identidade no Século XX’, pp. 241–2: ‘… um (…) pluralismo de orientações estilísticas e opções de linguagem, que, se para alguns é sintoma inquietante de um ecletismo pós-moderno em que anything goes, constitui para outros uma reacção necessária à visão determinista de uma vanguarda sacralizada e dos seus supostos “imperativos históricos”.’

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  • EISSN: 1478-2286
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