For the past few years, the most common repertoire request I’ve had from student pianists has been to play music by Ludovico Einaudi. People hear his music on television, often as a backdrop to adverts or trailers for TV shows – it’s real ‘mood’ music that uses trance-like repeating patterns to lull the audience into a relaxed state of mind.
Musicologists use the term ‘minimalism’ to describe the use of repeating rhythms, chords and melodic fragments as the primary unifying feature of a work. Such techniques can produce a surprisingly wide range of musical effects, and the resulting pieces can vary from very lullaby-esque to high octane dance tracks. However, I usually find myself teaching students music that might be described as ‘pretty’ minimalism, with repeating chord patterns and attractive over-arching melodies. I also work with students to compose their own pieces in the minimalist style – you can achieve really fantastic results with fairly scarce musical resources by starting simple and just adding layers as you go.
Here’s one I recorded by Gabriel Yared, called Ada Plays to Inman from the film ‘Cold Mountain’: