Area of Study 2
Changing Directions in Western Classical
Music from 1900
Minimalism
Minimalism
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The origins of minimalism are from the
West coast of America in the 1960’s
Its influences are from many different
cultures
Minimalist art is art with only a few
lines or squares, minimalist music is
music that changes only a little bit at a
time
Influences…
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Minimalism is influenced by rhythms from West
Africa. The rhythm of the music can be very
complicated and uses cross rhythms.
Gamelan music (from Indonesia) has layered
parts all playing different versions of the same
tune but at different times.
Minimalism is also influenced by Indian music
The Music
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The music is made up of constantly repeating
patterns called loops. The loops are short
and simple and are often made out of
arpeggios, broken chords and scales.
The final music can be quite complicated,
especially the rhythm.
The harmony is built up by layering loops on
top of each other.
More music…
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There are a few ways of gradually changing
the loops:
1. Notes can gradually be added or taken
away.
2. The notes of the loop pattern change over
time.
3. Adding or removing rests
4. Layering different-length patterns
together
Music Technology and Minimalism
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In the 1960’s composers would make their
pieces using tapes and selotape!
They would make loops by carefully cutting a
tape so it had the bits of music they wanted
and then stick the cut end together.
Composers made loops out of words and other
noises.
The different loops could be put together
using multi-tracking, they would record the
loops one on top of another to create layers.
Key words and info.
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Loops
Ostinato
Phase shifting (gradually separating parts
from an opening rhythmic unison)
Gradual changes in texture and dynamics.
Tape loops (which now be done using Cubase)
Addition/Subtraction
Melodic and rhythmic transformation.
Composers
Steve Reich
 Terry Riley
 Philip Glass
 John Adams
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Finally
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Expressionist music was quite complicated
Minimalist music is very simple
Minimalism influenced club music –
repetition and loops, for example
Homework.
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Select one of the composers listed and
find out about his compositions. Try to
listen to one if possible and describe it.
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Area of Study 2 Changing Directions in Western Classical Music