Louis Andriessen's Hoketus is one of the few works in the literature that manage to be irritating and completely fascinating at the same time. It was composed between 1975 and 1977 for a minimalist music project at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, where Andriessen taught. Like many minimalist compositions, it offers very little actual music, preferring instead to rhythmically manipulate and extend a small amount of material. Andriessen's primary method for this manipulation and extension is the eponymous hocket -- a medieval technique in which consecutive notes of a rhythmic or melodic motif are alternated between instruments or voices.
The ancient nature of this method is somewhat undermined by the work's instrumentation, which calls for two groups, each containing panpipes, alto saxophone, piano, electric piano, bass guitar and conga drums. Hoketus begins with two nearly identical chords separated by pauses, and with each chord played only by one of the two groups. These two chords are then grouped into three-chord groups, then groups of four, then six chords; the piece moves onwards from there, without changing the chords, the instrumentation, or who's playing what. It is all hypnotically spare and lucid. Finally, the composer introduces rhythmic accents, which had been absent for the first part of the work, and eliminates the pauses, providing more opportunities for rhythmic manipulation.
Andriessen then introduces another set of two somewhat brighter-sounding chords, which are run through the same gamut of changes and variations. These two chords are replaced a few times until finally a melody emerges; this is also divided up between the two groups of instruments. At this point, the music has been going nonstop for so long that it is actually stunning when Andriessen introduces a pause, just before the music's final elaboration, which crescendos into one last solid chord. These machinations may seem cold and sterile from a schematic description, but even as it annoys, Hoketus commands attention.