Systems music

Systems music is music with sound continua which evolve gradually, often over very long periods of time (Sutherland 1994, 172). Historically, the American minimalists Steve Reich, La Monte Young and Philip Glass are considered the principal proponents of this compositional approach. Works by this group of composers are often characterized by features such as stasis or repetitiveness.

A number of English experimental composers have also developed systems based music particularly Michael Parsons, Howard Skempton, John White, and Michael Nyman (Sutherland 1994, 183).

In the realm of computer music, "systems music" refers to fractal-based, computer-assisted composition, and in particular iterated function systems music, in which a function "is applied repeatedly, each time taking as argument its value at the previous application" (Gogins 1991, 40).


  • Gogins, Michael (1991). "Iterated-Functions Systems Music". Computer Music Journal 15, no. 1 (Spring): 40–48.
  • Sutherland, Roger (1994). New Perspectives in Music. London: Sun Tavern Fields. ISBN 0-9517012-6-6.

Further reading

  • Anderson, Virginia (2013a). "Systems and Other Minimalism in Britain". In The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music, edited by Keith Potter, Kyle Gann, and Pwyll ap Siôn, 87–106. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-4094-3549-5.
  • Anderson, Virginia (2013b). "Whatever Remains, However Improbable". In Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research, edited by Michael Schwab, 55–67. Leuven: Leuven University Press. ISBN 9789058679734.
  • Dennis, Brian (1974). "Repetitive and Systemic Music". The Musical Times 115, no. 1582 (December), pp. 1036–38.
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