If You Like Steve Reich Or Terry Riley, You’re Gonna Love…


If you like Steve Reich or Terry Riley, you’re gonna love…

This blog is about a type of ambient electronic music called minimalism. It is a blog about a playlist of minimalism. But the playlist is not on the blog. The playlist is on Spotify and the blog is here to tell you why you should listen to it.

The list contains over 150 songs, each one by either Steve Reich or Terry Riley, and each one under five minutes long. I don’t think you can find a better entry point into this music than that list.

How did I make it? I looked at my iTunes library, which has more than 250 albums by these two composers. Then I looked at every track with one of those albums and wrote down the ones that were less than five minutes long. When I was done, I had a list of more than 400 tracks by Steve Reich or Terry Riley that were less than five minutes long. Then I shuffled them up and put them in order on Spotify so that every track would be followed by a track from the other composer.

Every track is good but some are better than others, so if you plan to listen to the whole thing (and you should), it will help if there is

A couple of years ago I was a grad student and all I listened to was ambient electronic music. All genres of it: techno, downtempo, chill out, worldbeat, house, you name it.

I’m not sure why. It didn’t help me study, and it didn’t help me sleep either. I just liked the tunes. (And still do.) Here’s a playlist of my favorite ambient electronic songs.

If you like Steve Reich or Terry Riley or Philip Glass or John Cage or any of those guys, you’re gonna love this stuff.[1]

[1]: This is a bit of an exaggeration for two reasons: 1) I haven’t really listened to much Reich or Riley lately, so I don’t know how contemporary ambient electronic music compares; 2) The comparison should be between Reich /

If you like the music of Steve Reich or Terry Riley, you are going to love this selection of ambient electronic music.

This playlist is assembled from my own listening, from recommendations from friends, and from suggestions in the comments on my original post about this topic.

Why haven’t I listened to much ambient electronic?

I am a big fan of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and Terry Riley’s In C. And I am a big fan of electronic music: from Kraftwerk through Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream and more modern artists. So why have I not listened to much ambient electronic?

The answer is simple: I never knew where to start.

If you like the music of Steve Reich or Terry Riley, then this blog is for you.

I’ll be introducing you to ambient electronic music created by today’s artists taking inspiration from the same minimalist composers that inspired Terry Riley and Steve Reich in the 60s, as well as other influences like Indian classical and African music, and also contemporary classical music.

The playlist below includes some of my favorite tracks from the blog which will start you off on your journey if you’re new to this style of music.

If you would like to support this blog, please click here to buy my new album, “Triumphal Procession”.

Ambient electronic music is a style of minimalist music that emphasizes tonal textures with slowly changing harmonies or melodic motifs, and uses repetitive, but gentle, soothing sound patterns that can be described as sonic wallpaper to complement or alter one’s space and to generate a sense of calmness.

The genre is said to evoke an “atmospheric”, “visual”, or “unobtrusive” quality. According to Brian Eno, who coined the term in 1978, “Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”

There are two main kinds of ambient music. The first is instrumental music intended for background listening, which lack simple musical structure or rhythmic pulse. The second kind is ambient techno, which uses a steady rhythm and/or beat. These two kinds are often combined in the form of downtempo genre.

Ambient electronic music is a genre of music that emphasizes tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. A form of instrumental music, it may lack net composition, beat, or structured melody. It uses textural layers of sound which can reward both passive and active listening and encourage a sense of calm or contemplation. The genre is said to evoke an “atmospheric”, “visual”, or “unobtrusive” quality.

It arose in the 1970s with the introduction of new music technology, such as synthesizers, that were used to create new sounds and textures that did not have to rely on the traditional instruments associated with rock and popular music (electric guitars, drums, bass guitar). Ambient music may have elements of new-age music and drone music, as some works may use sustained or repeated notes. It may also incorporate minimalist music qualities due to its repetitive patterns.

Ambient electronic music is found on commercial recordings largely produced by artists in their own recording studios; however, there are also many live performances of this style of music at various electronic music festivals throughout the world.

I used to think that I had a pretty good understanding of ambient music. But then it turned out that this was only because I had already been listening to it for a long time.

I thought of ambient music as something like the music you hear in elevators or supermarkets. Ambient is what’s playing if there’s no one else in the room, and you don’t have your headphones on, and you’re not actively listening to anything. It’s what’s playing on a TV in a bar, when the sound is off.

But it turns out that this isn’t really correct. What I’d been thinking of as ambient music is actually more accurately described as easy listening instrumental background music, or mood music. Some people call it Muzak, which is technically just one brand name for one particular style of easy listening mood music, but they do so as an umbrella term to refer to all such music.

And while some people genuinely enjoy listening to elevator Muzak — and some musicians have gone out of their way to release ambient albums specifically designed for use in corporate elevators — most people don’t really like elevator Muzak, and don’t really even think of it as “music.” It’s just something that plays when there is nothing else playing


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