No, that's not it. -- N.O. Brown
I tried, in a few recent posts, to reclaim the term minimalism, a term that, to my mind has been hijacked by a revisionist view that seeks to define it narrowly as a musical style and limit it to a particular -- closed, historical -- repertoire. I didn't do a very good job, so let me try again:
Minimalism in music is the impulse to articulate or frame a musical work or performance so that the sounds themselves can be clearly perceived as distinct or composite forms and in maximum detail. To achieve this clarity, the number and variety of materials used will usually be limited, and any formal processes used will usually be efficient, evident, and carried out consequently .
This impulse may lead to, if not actively entertain, several, possibly paradoxical, effects:
- materials or processes selected for their simplicity may reveal, through clear compositional articulation and focused listening, unexpected details, even complexity;
- although an honest or realist approach, music so articulated may open up its own musical/acoustical illusion spaces;
- this physical and experiential mode of production and listening may resonate with abstract or conceptual modes of understanding;
- the materials selected may recall or be identified with known musical repertoire.
(image: from the score to Hauke Harder's 320 BPM "Why Beats?" (1991) for flute, piano and glockenspiel).