Sunday, 1 February 2015

Take a minimalist approach

Subtle changes in the rhythm and structure of things can eventually prove to be very significant. There is a contemporary musical style known as Minimalism that illustrates this very well.

The main characteristic of Minimalist Music, as exemplified by the music of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams and Michael Nyman, is its repetitive, slowly evolving structure. On first hearing this type of music it seems as if the same notes and rhythms are being repeated over and over, but as the music progresses it gradually becomes clear that subtle changes are occurring.

Notes and rhythms are slowly altering, taking baby steps away from their original positions. This makes the musical rhythms and combinations of notes sound just that little bit different each time they are played. Over time the whole character of the music changes and by its end it may well have evolved into something that is very different in sound and character to its beginnings.

Sometimes, when dealing with complex issues, incremental rather than transformational change can work best. Taking small steps in the direction you want to go and making small alterations in the emphasis given to certain activities can prove more effective than grand, operatic set-piece initiatives.

In themselves any small steps taken can seem insignificant, but if they are part of a greater plan or structure that has a strong momentum and clear direction, significant and lasting change can gradually be achieved.

This type of incremental or evolutionary change may, arguably, take more time to achieve, but because those involved have arrived at the required destination only ever having been asked to travel in small steps, it may not seem like that much of a change at all. In fact people may not even recognise that it has happened!

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