|[pictured: "Ancient Sound, Abstract on Black" by Paul Klee]
Minimalist music has been around for a long time in other cultures, but its spread into Western music and art began in the mid-1900's. The main concept behind minimalist composition is the use of a small (or "minimal") amount of musical material. Composers take these musical patterns and repeat them over and over and over and over... you get the idea. They vary these patterns over long stretches of time, often so that the listener cannot readily perceive the changes. For that reason, minimalist music is often said to have a trance-like or hypnotic effect.
Like many other kinds of modern music, some people find minimalist music difficult to listen to. This is because minimalism is not based on inidividual notes but rather on musical patterns. For example, classical composers like Beethoven used notes to create a melody, whereas minimalist composers like Philip Glass use patterns of notes to create a mood. Therefore, minimalist pieces may sound like a broken record, with no change really happening. The key is to listen for the overall effect, not the actual notes.
Many of the pioneering minimalists (such as Glass, Riley, and Reich) are still writing today. The
minimalist style has also spread into pop music, most notably into
"techno" music, where there is a need for dance music that lasts
for hours at a time.