The Sounds of Minimalist Music

From heavy metal to chilled jazz, music can take many forms. In this piece we discover minimalist music and how it can benefit you.

Music consists of various sounds which are formulated in various compositions to make distinct bodies of work. 

However, music has taken on a mind of its own throughout the vast history of sound’s implications.

Some individuals enjoy the abstract vibrant sounds of pop music, where music becomes a kaleidoscope of melody and catchy structure. 

Others like the violent nature of heavy metal, which produces a wall of sound to impact emotions. 

On the contrasting side, music listeners may prefer the calming sounds of chill jazz to ease their stressful thoughts and daily happenings. It can be strange to think that music can be made from and into anything one can imagine but can music truly be made from an old whisky bottle? 

Minimal music has captivated a sub-genre of music listeners for decades, but what exactly is minimal music?

To further develop the understanding of minimal music, the term ‘minimal’ can be documented as being first used concerning music in 1968. 

English composer Michael Nyman coined the musical term ‘minimal music’ from musical analysis of American cellist, Charlotte Moorman, and Korean-American artist Nam June Paik at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. 

Nyman continued this evolution of the term minimal music in his 1974 book, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Tom Johnson (composer) further defines minimal music as music that works with limited material. 

The composed pieces only use a few notes such as antique cymbals and bicycle wheels. Whiskey bottles have also been known to be a key minimalistic musical instrument.


The Development of Minimalist Music

According to, early development derived from the sounds of Moondog of the 1940s and 1950s. 

Moondog was an American composer and poet who developed many compositions over steady pulses and often unusual time signatures.

Some distinct objective to minimalist music includes the sustaining of one basic electronic rumble for a long period of time. Some minimal music recordings use sounds to depict imagery of rivers and streams. 

Johnson proclaims that minimalist music also creates a circle illusion of music sounds.

An abundance of pitches that fall between C and D have managed to be a crucial component of minimalistic music. 

Minimalist composers such as Louis Andriessen, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley have managed to create a strong name for themselves in the world of minimal music. 


Reich’s early work consisted of small instrumental ensembles and focuses on percussion and mallet instruments. 

Additionally, the composer drew many unique sponsorships at the early development of their minimal music implications. 

Museums and art galleries would collaborate with the composer along with filmmakers such as Michael Snow. 

In 1963, Riley produced two electronic workings using tape delay which portrayed minimalistic instrumentation and repetition.


Popular Minimalistic Approaches 

Minimalistic music can take on a series of implications, yet maintains a repetitive nature while slowly changing common chords. 

Steady rhythm layered with long lyrical melodies often formulates in minimal music. Harmony is also a defining tool through minimal music to create an aural and beautiful atmosphere within music creations. 

In 1994, composer Leonard B. Meyer described minimal music as a motion that does not move from one place to the other. 

Minimal music does not have a defined direction but follows the many instrumental sounds to complete a complete composition.

I have always admired music and its minimal approaches.

At times, music can translate to loud emotion even through a simplistic nature. 

Over the years, Minimal music has made many influences on popular music.

The iconic experimental rock band Velvet Underground incorporated much of the minimalistic music approach in their music. 

Songs such as Venus in Furs create an ambiance atmosphere of minimal sounds paired with at times inconsistent tempo to create pure legendary music. 

The band has a strong connection to the New York downtown scene from where minimal music surfaced.

Through the era of psychedelia and flower lower, minimalistic music began to crossover to other genres such as rock and jazz. 

The popular band The Beach Boys incorporated heavy minimal sounds in their 12th studio album Smiley Smile in 1967. 

Further musical genre developments such as space rock, noise rock, and krautrock were all influenced by the musical happening of minimal music. 

The minimal sounds did not just stay in the US borders.

The evolutionary sounds went overseas as the British ambient group The Orb used much of minimal music to create electronic music in 1988. 

In the following years, the British group found inspiration from Riech’s work of Electric Counterpoint, which was sampled in the band’s track “Little Fluffy Clouds in 1999. 

Further acknowledgments of Riech’s impact on the minimal music scene came in the form of a tribute album in 1999 titled Reich Remixed, which features artists such as Coldcut, DJ Spooky and Mantronik. Minimal music will continue to make an impact on the global music world.

Another musical article for your eyes, away from minimalist music:

The Complicated Relationship of Music and Cancel Culture

Support us!

All your donations will be used to pay the magazine’s journalists and to support the ongoing costs of maintaining the site.


paypal smart payment button for simple membership

Share this post

Interested in co-operating with us?

We are open to co-operation from writers and businesses alike. You can reach us on our email at and we will get back to you as quick as we can.

Where to next?

The Atlas Six: Book Review

In a world where knowledge is killed for, you should consider yourself lucky the Alexandrian Society didn’t come for you.