external image music_score_stationary_music_gifts_postcard-p239762878222253906trdg_400.jpgMinimalism involved taking small musical and rhythmic ideas and repeating them over and over again. There is less concern for harmony or even melody, and more concern regarding the rhythmic lines.

Terry Riley, "In C"

This work consists of twenty or so melodic figures written in the key of C. The performers chose which figures that they wanted to play and then repeated several times. As you can hear, its a bit repetitive.

In the 20th century, composers like Terry Riley and Philip Glass developed a style of music called minimalism. Minimalism is a musical form that creates an entire work or visual piece out of the barest of elements repeated over and over again. Slight changes created by overlapping rhythms provided some variation.

For example, Philip Glass's opera "Einstein on the Beach" consisted of choral works that repeated various phrases over and over and over again. Orlando Garcia, a Grammy-winning composer based in Miami, often takes the idea to the opposite extreme, sometimes having long twenty minute works where performers sing only long tones for extended periods of time.
You can check out Einstein on the Beach here:
This entire section consists of the choir singing numbers over and over again. And over again.

American composer John Adams is one of the premier composers of our day. Adams joined Terry Riley and Philip Glass in minimalism, a movement based on repetition of short melodic ideas and rhythms. One of the biggest aspects of minimalism is the idea of phasing, or the slight musical nuances created when repetitive patterns are slightly offset from one another. Adam's later compositions are more "accessible" (more pop oriented) and have trends of neoromanticism (a resurgence of musical characteristics of the Romantic Era within a contemporary framework).

Adam's Opera "The Death of Klinghoffer" can also be found on film. You can listen to an excerpt here: