There is some piano music, of which the melody is consisted of short, equal duration notes and the accompaniment is also equal duration notes from chord breakdown. There are quite some repetition in the texture and chord progression, but there is not much variation in the rhythm, nor is there much use of heavy chords. As a result, the music sounds fluid and intangible.

Some of the examples include: music from the movie The Hours composed by Philip Glass and music from the movie Effroyables Jardins by composer Zbigniew Preisner.

My question is: in professional musicians' eyes, is music with these properties considered the same style, or style categorization is based on some other properties? If it is, what is the name of this style?

(I don't know if this question is considered to be off-topic genre identification question, but I give it a shot anyway because I can't think of another way to effectively get an answer. If it is off-topic, I'll close or delete it. Thanks for you time and sorry for the missing/inaccurate terminologies due to my still-improving English.)

1 Answer 1


I believe the style you're looking for is known as Minimalism. It was a style conceived in the late 20th century by composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and others. The underlying philosophy is "less is more." The typical pattern in minimalist music is to construct simple motifs and repeat them (similar to Alberti or ostinato patterns from classical theory). The minimalist concept involves layering these simple, repeating motifs in set intervals to create the same style of tension & release as found in other styles of music. By adding/removing/changing one layer at a time at set intervals, the music is said to have a mechanical fluidity exclusive to this style of musical design. It's worth mentioning that the limiting constructs of minimalist music are not solely set to harmony -- minimalist music can take any aspect of music (rhythm, pitch, note length, etc...), limit it to only a small scope, and attempt to work within those limitations to create something magnificent.

For further listening, I might recommend some of the following:

  • Koyaanisqatsi - A beautiful film by Francis Ford Coppala with music by Philip Glass.

  • Short Ride In A Fast Machine - An iconic piece of literature for modern wind orchestras. Written by John Adams.

  • In C - A really cool piece by minimalist Terry Riley. I had the pleasure of performing this with some friends from college - you should read up on the construction of this from a musical standpoint.

  • Music for 18 Musicians - An amazing piece of music by Steve Reich. He is well known in the percussion world for his compositions.

I hope this helps out, and good luck!

  • Hi, thanks for the answer! I think the music pieces I've mentioned may fall into minimalist category on technical aspects, but seems far more melodic and emotional than the examples in the answer. Do you think they're of the same style or might be a different one?
    – NS.X.
    Jul 8, 2013 at 19:56
  • 1
    @NS.X. - Listening again, I will say the 2nd piece you listed sounds more like a hybrid between Impressionism & French cabaret music (Moulin Rouge, etc...). The improvisational quality of the melody is not minimalist in nature. The 1st one would definitely fall under the minimalism umbrella. Bear in mind that minimalism doesn't have to be mechanical - it can be deeply emotional and melodic. It's only the process that has a mechanical structure. If you have the time, check out Koyaanisqatsi (above) from beginning to end and you'll see what I mean. Jul 8, 2013 at 20:17

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