Simple starting points

I’ve started making a new piece of work. I’m at the beginning of the process and although I’m beyond the first sampling and trying out stage, I’m still in, ‘not quite sure exactly how this will turn out’ mode. I thought I’d write a little about some of its origins and a few ideas I am pondering at the moment.


The form of this work comes from Minimalist music that originated in America in the mid-sixties. This type of music broke away from the classical tradition to be more chaotic and you could say, less musical.


Some of the features of Minimalist music are:

  • Layers of repeated rhythmic, melodic or harmonic patterns that are repeated many times (the proper word is ostinato).
  • Repeated patterns that gradually change over time.
  • Layered textures


Composers included Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

I remember taking part in a performance of Terry Riley’s In C, when I was at music college and being completely amazed by the way a seemingly simple score could create such complex sounds.


In C consists of 53 separate bars of music in the key of C, each with a different melodic and rhythmic pattern.  Players repeat each bar as many times as they wish before moving onto the next. The result is an ever-changing web of sound where complicated patterns and unpredictable combinations of the set bars occur.

The idea that one simple form, when repeated over and over again, can produce complex and multifarious patterns is very beguiling and is also very relevant to visual art. The work I am making at the moment is made up of a simple, repeated form. When assembled these forms will create an altogether new and more complex work. I think that this work is the simplest interpretation of the idea…..


….but already my mind is moving on to how I could make an even more complex work from the simplest of ideas: very, very, simple repeated, rhythmic layers that slip in and out of sync with each other to make a complex work.

However, for now, it’s on with the sewing – there’s a lot to do.  More on this project later as I progress!



13 thoughts on “Simple starting points

  1. Karen Moser

    It sounds really fascinating. I look forward to seeing how you develop this project. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Charade

    I’m fascinated by your thought process. I can’t wait to see how all that music becomes fiber art in your hands. Thanks so much for explaining something so complex in a way that a non-musician like me feels I can actually understand it.

  3. olganorris

    I find some minimal music transcending – especially Reich and Glass, not being so familiar with Riley. I love how they stimulate sheer joy while also providing a springboard for thinking and creativity. As you were describing Riley’s In C I was visualising the sea – both I suspect because of same sound used in C and in sea, and the sound and look of waves in various locations around the UK shores. You have set me thinking, thank you.

    I look forward enormously to seeing the manifestation of your thoughts.

    1. debbielyddon Post author

      Hi Olga, I wasn’t thinking about the sea this time, but the random movements and rhythmic insistence of minimalist music certainly bring the sea and the tides to mind …. I’m sure I’ll connect the two inspirations together in the future. D

  4. Pingback: Chalk Ground at Cley 17 | debbie lyddon

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