The Relationship Between Minimalism and Minimal Techno Classical Music

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

Minimalism and minimal techno classical music have a lot in common. Both are about stripping away the non-essentials and focusing on the essentials. This can be seen in the way that minimalism is all about simplicity and functionality, and minimal techno classical music is all about focusing on the beat and the rhythm.


In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in minimalism, both in the art world and in music. This interest has been spurred in part by the re-release of seminal works by minimalists such as Terry Riley and La Monte Young, as well as by the success of contemporary minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

One genre that has been particularly influenced by minimalism is minimal techno. While not all minimal techno composers are explicitly influenced by minimalism, many of them use similar techniques, such as repetition and gradual change, in their music.

In this paper, I will explore the relationship between minimalism and minimal techno. I will discuss how minimalism has influenced the development of minimal techno, and how some minimalist techniques have been adapted for use in this genre. I will also consider how minimal techno has broaden the scope of what is considered to be “minimal music.”

What is Minimalism?

Minimalism in music generally refers to a style of music that uses repetition and simplicity as compositional devices. This type of music is often characterized by long, drawn-out drones, and a lack of melodic or rhythmic development. Minimal techno is a subgenre of techno that takes these minimalistic compositional principles and applies them to techno music.

Characteristics of Minimalist Music

Minimalist music is characterized by a slow rate of change, a stasis or “drifting” quality, a focus on repetition and iteration, an emphasis on sonic texture over melodic or motivic development, and the extension of durations. (In ensembles, voices may be evenly distributed across instruments, creating static textures rather than chordal or contrapuntal progressions.) It is “modular” in that individual musical ideas or gestures are often repeated or gradual variations on each other, and that these may be developed over long periods of time. Minimalism is sometimes regarded as having been influential on several 20th-century musical styles such as ambient music and drone music.

There are three types of minimalism: Objective minimalism, Charles Ives minimalism ( process music), and totalism.

Objective minimalism was propounded by La Monte Young in his seminal 1960 composition The Well-Tuned Piano which consists of six pianos being tuned to just intonation over the course of several hours; and Terry Riley in his 1964 composition In C which uses short melodic phrases which are repeated over an extended period of time by any number of players. The work is based on a ostinato figure which cycles endlessly throughout the piece.

Charles Ives minimalism follows a compositional process whereby a work is created by removing all but the essential elements needed to convey the basic idea or gesture; these might include duration, dynamics, articulation, pitch (or pitch class), register etc.. This process might be applied to a section of music , an entire composition , or an entire catalogue of works.
It was while working on his Universe Symphony that Ives came to realize that “the vastness of space and time affected my thinking about music”, this realisation led him to start experimenting with vast silences in his music as well as extreme changes in dynamics , these two ideas would come to form the basis for what later came to be known as totalism .
The defining feature of totalism is the use of extended durations combined with either sudden changes (as in Terry Rileys In C) or extremely gradual changes (as in La Monte Youngs The Well-Tuned Piano).

The Relationship Between Minimalism and Minimal Techno Classical Music

Minimalism is a style of music that is characterized by repetitious, often tonal, rhythms and melodies. It often uses short, staccato notes and sustained tones. Minimalism began in the early 20th century with composers such as Erik Satie and Arnold Schoenberg. The style gained popularity in the 1960s with composers such as Terry Riley and La Monte Young. In the 1970s, minimalist composers such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich began to use electronic instruments, which led to the development of minimal techno in the 1990s.

Minimal techno is a subgenre of techno that is characterized by repetitive, hypnotic rhythms and soundscapes. It often incorporates elements of minimalism, ambient music, and dub. Minimal techno is typically produced on computers using audio editing software such as Ableton Live or Logic Pro.

Although minimalism and minimal techno share some similarities, there are also some important differences. Minimalism is a musical style that can be traced back to the early 20th century, whereas minimal techno is a relatively new genre that developed in the 1990s. Furthermore, minimalism typically uses acoustic instruments, whereas minimal techno often uses electronic instruments.


In conclusion, minimalist music and minimal techno classical music have a lot in common. Both genres seek to create a sense of space and simplicity, and both use repetition to create a hypnotic effect. However, there are also some important differences between the two genres. Minimalist music is often more slowly paced and uses more acoustic instruments, while minimal techno classical music is faster-paced and often uses electronic instruments. Despite these differences, both genres can be enjoyable to listen to and can provide a sense of calmness and relaxation.

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