There’s a wealth of listening available nowadays, especially with the advent of streaming services. Along with pop, metal and rock, there’s two more musical styles which are gaining popularity: serialism and minimalism. Both styles allow for deep listening, or just a casual glance, but there’s more to them than meets the eye.
What is serialism?
Serialism is based on the 12 tone chromatic scale. Composers such as Bela Bartok first started moving music in this direction, but it was perfected by Arnold Schoenberg, who is considered the father of the genre. Other terms are often used to describe serialism, such as atonal music, 12 tone music and row music.
These tones are then played in the ordered sequence in several ways, such as backwards, transposed or as originally composed. This creates a wealth of possible combinations of notes and chords used to create the music. Serialism also can be used for the duration as well as pitch.
When you begin listening to serialism, you will notice a lot of repeated patterns, both rhythm and pitch-wise. It can be very discordant but also have a trance-like quality to it. This is what makes it so popular; you can listen as you work, you don’t have to pay a lot of attention to the music due to the pattern of sounds.
What is minimalism?
Minimalism was first associated with visual art after the second world war, where the artist uses very little materials and the art is very sparse. In the 1960’s composers such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams adapted the concept to music.
In this style of music, there is very little materials used; repetition is key, with the music being used on small fragments of notes, chord progression or rhythm.
The music usually has a strong rhythmic drive and is very repetitive, with small variation in tempo, rhythm or pitch. These can be so subtle the listener would struggle to notice such variations.
The beauty of this style of music is the repetitive nature of it. Like serialism, you can do other things while listening to it. The listening can choose to dip in and out, listening deeply if they wish, or just allowing the music to wash over them.
Many pop artists are employing the technique, perhaps not realising it, especially in the accompaniment of their vocal tracks.
Where to find this music?
There is a wealth of music in both styles. Many of the streams services have albums of pieces which can be streamed or downloaded. A critical listen to many of the modern pop artists will also find elements of those styles.
To get started with minimalism, listen to composers Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. If you want to listen to serialism, listen to Arnold Schoenberg.