Minimal Music


“I write music, and I want people to listen to it and care about it and have it make some difference in their lives. When I’m fortunate for that to happen, then of course I feel very, very good about it” (Steve Reich).


Steve Reich along with La Monte Young, Terry Riley and Phillip Glass are considered to make the first creations and steps to minimal music.

Minimal music is a form of art music, which is marked for having limited or minimal musical materials. Minimal music contains pieces, which take a long time to turn from one kind of music to the other.  According to Richard E. Rodda, the minimal music is based on the repetition of slowly changing common chords. Another definition of minimal music is made by Timothy Johnson who said that the minimal music is always continues in a form but the changes are so unnoticeable that we hardly realize when the change happened. It is so fluent that does not cause any interruption in the sound. It is originated in New York Downtown Scene in the mid to the late 1960s and was firstly considered as a form of experimental music. Minimal music is characterized by features such as non-narrative, non-teleological, and non-representational meanings of a work, which is a new approach of music that makes us listen to music in a way that we concentrate more in the internal process. Important features of the techniques include consonant harmony, steady pulse, and gradual transformation.


Though there are a number of composers involved in the movement of minimal music, however five of them managed to become publicly related to the American minimal music: Young, Riley, Reich, Glass, and some time later John Adams. It is still unclear where he term originated but Steve Reich claimed that it could be connected to Michael Nyman who further explained and gave a full definition of a minimal music in his 1974 book called “Experimental Music”. One of the first minimal works is the composition called ‘November” by Dennis Johnson written in 1959. This composition had many common characteristics with minimal music, such as repetition, duration, diatonic tonality, and additive process.


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