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Philip Glass remains a major force, even as the minimalist movement ebbs away. Plus what's behind the treasury's conversion on arts funding?

By Martin Kettle   November 2007

Glass hits his ceiling

In their 1980s heyday, minimalist composers such as Philip Glass seemed to offer a radical new answer to a perennial question of 20th-century music: whither western art music? The European conservative tradition had had nothing new to say since at least the death of Strauss in 1949. The progressive tradition had generally died with Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Britten in the 1970s, though it lingered on in places, notably America. With the exception of the ageing Messiaen, himself not in any sense a mainstream avant-gardist, radical postwar modernism was struggling to maintain an audience at all.

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