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Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art, especially visual art and music, where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features. In other fields of art, it has been used to describe the plays of Samuel Beckett, or the films of Robert Bresson, or the stories of Raymond Carver, for example.

Minimalism in visual art

A minimalist painting, for example, will typically use a limited number of colours, and have a simple geometric design. A characteristic of much minimalist work is that it is designed to direct the viewers attention toward the physical situation in which the art object is placed, as opposed to the imaginary realm "inside" the artwork that the viewer occupies when looking, for example, at a traditional, pictorial, painting. Notable minimalists in the visual arts are Frank Stella, Donald Judd and Carl Andre (See List of minimalist artists).

Musical minimalism

In classical music of the last 35 years, the term minimalism is sometimes applied to music which displays some or all of the following features: repetition (often of short musical phrases, with minimal variations over long periods of time) or stasis (often in the form of drones and long tones); emphasis on consonant harmony; a steady pulse. It is almost inseparable, currently, from electronic music and composition. See also: Minimal music

It should be noted that the minimalist movement in music bears only an occasional relationship to the movement of the same name in visual art. This connection is probably one reason why many minimalist composers dislike the term. Philip Glass, whose group initially performed at art galleries where his minimalist visual artist friends were showing, reportedly said of minimalism, "That word should be stamped out!". Apart from Philip Glass, Steve Reich is arguably the most famous minimalist composer.