10 best minimalist classical music tracks for ultimate relaxation

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24 August 2021, 16:55

10 best minimalist classical music tracks for ultimate relaxation.

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From Michael Nyman to Meredith Monk, we marvel at some of the most compelling, mesmerizing and calming minimalist music ever written.

The guiding principle of minimalist music, said founding father of the genre Terry Riley, is to produce simple and repeated note patterns.

“Basically,” he said, “my contribution was to introduce repetition into Western music as a main ingredient with no melody on it, nothing… just repeating patterns, musical patterns.

Repeating patterns can create a fascinating and ultimately mesmerizing listening experience, perfect for relaxing and taking time to reflect.

We’ve delved into the canon of minimalist music to find some of the best and most relaxing tracks written in the genre.

Read more: 9 of the most relaxing pieces in modern classical music

  1. Terry Riley: In C (1964)

    Want the simplest, most joyful and hypnotic minimalist music there is? Head over to American composer Terry Riley and try his repetitive and relentless minimalist work, In C.

    Composed in 1964, it is composed for an indefinite number of performers – although Riley suggests that a group of 35 is roughly correct – and consists of 53 short, numbered musical phrases that can be repeated by every musician in the world. ‘together as many times as they want, at their discretion. It seems like it shouldn’t work, but somehow it does.

  2. Julius Eastman: Female No. 1, Prime (1974)

    Eastman was an American composer, pianist, singer and dancer, and his music is characterized by repetitions that slowly evolve and eventually dissolve. “Premium” of Feminine is poised and unhurried, a fine example of what he called his style of “organic music”.

  3. Arvo Pärt: Für Alina (1976)

    Arvo Pärt is an Estonian minimalist composer who invented the style of music “tintinnabulum” – “tintinnabuli” meaning “bell-shaped”.

    Für Alina makes minimal use of piano notes to represent an evocative and sublime moment of calm.

    “Tintinnabulation is an area that I sometimes wander around when I’m looking for answers, in my life, in my music, in my work,” says the composer. “In my dark hours, I have a sure feeling that anything outside of that one thing just makes no sense. The complex and the many facets only confuse me, and I must seek unity.

  4. Meredith Monk: Ellis Island (1981)

    Meredith Monk is an American songwriter, singer and multimedia designer. she composed Ellis Island, a work for two pianists, for his own film of the same name, in 1981. The film is a series of meditative and stimulating scenes that explore the experience of immigrants entering America at the turn of the century.

  5. Philip Glass: Glassware n ° 1, Overture (1982)

    One of the fathers of modern minimalism, Glass composed numerous works for piano, orchestra and cinema in the genre. His 1982 collection for piano and chamber orchestra, Glassware, includes examples of textbooks in the minimalist Glass style, and “Opening” is beautifully graceful and contemplative.

  6. Steve Reich, Different Trains (1988)

    American composer Steve Reich composed Different trains for string quartet and recorded tape – including tape featuring human voices, produced to form melodies. The three-movement experimental work traces contrasting train journeys in America and Europe during WWII – Reich poignantly confronting, as a Jewish man, his own wartime train journeys would have been very different if he had been in Europe at the time.

  7. Michael Nyman: The Heart Begs For Pleasure First (1993)

    Michael Nyman wrote a minimalist melody-focused soundtrack for the 1993 film, The piano. The melody of the musical theme, “The Heart Asks Pleasure First”, is simple, lovely and thoughtful, and the underlying repetitive music swirls and bubbles below to create a deep sense of wonder and hope.

    Read more: What makes Michael Nyman’s music for The Piano so great? We unbox its simple shine.

  8. Ludovico Einaudi: I Giorni (2006)

    Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi studied in the European Modernist tradition with artists like Luciano Berio and Karlheinz Stockhausen, but when he discovered the work of American minimalists he brought simplicity and clarity to his style of composition. His piano works like “I Giorni” are understated, yet powerfully reflective in their simplicity.

    Read more: 9 best works by pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi

  9. John Luther Adams: Becoming Ocean (2014)

    The 2014 work of American composer John Luther Adams, Become Ocean, received the Pulitzer Prize for music that year. The composer, who regularly writes nature-inspired music, has been commissioned by the Seattle Symphony to compose a work reflecting the magnificent waters of the Pacific Northwest.

    The work unfolds and expands with a sensation evocative of a solo swim in vast open waters. “My hope,” said the composer, “is that the music creates a strange, beautiful, overwhelming – sometimes even frightening – landscape and invites you to lose yourself in it.” Listening, it’s almost as if we ourselves are becoming an ocean.

  10. Max Richter: Sleep (2015)

    German-British composer Richter’s Sleep is an eight-and-a-half-hour play inspired by the very essence of sleep. His beautiful, minimalist music aims to push back our increasingly mechanized, fast-paced and “engaged” modern society, and he has given beautiful music icy rhythmic melodies that glide in and out of the home – just like sleep. Gorgeous.

Click here to listen to the Classic FM Relax playlist on Global Player, the official Classic FM app.

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