One great example of well-executed minimalism and simplicity in music, I think, would be the song 'Walking on the Moon,' by The Police, off their album Reggatta de Blanc (1979).
I've mentioned the song on here many times; just look up my post on the different synesthetic response I get from bass guitars in songs. It's mentioned around here all the time, often enough.
The song is extremely simple and laid-back. There's just a quiet guitar, bass riff, and a constant beat. Plus the vocals.
Extreme simplicity, really, is what the song really evokes. The bass has only five simple notes during the verses, C-D, F-E-C, and the A#-F-C-G procession for the chorus (the kind of note progression wildly used in many songs). The guitar has two chords that play in quiet rhythm during the verses and then four more louder flourishes during the chorus (following the same keys as the bass). The drums have a constant bass and rim-click beat, with hi-hat flourishes.
Of the entire song, the star of the whole sound is the hi-hat, Sting's voice, and the guitar during the chorus. It's one of the things I like about that song: during the verses, your attention is always on the hi-hat, and what Sting is singing. Drummer Stewart Copeland basically focuses all the energy on the hi-hat during this song, while, almost lazily, it seems, punching the bass drum and emitting rim clicks at a slow, constant beat. The cymbals are hit at a faster rhythm and beat, and there are many flourishes.
I've often heard that simplicity is always the best way to go about things in music or whatever. The simpler it is, the better it sounds. This song is a good example.
Ironically, it has taken me a long while to practice and get up to beat in drumming this song myself; the hi-hat was virtually impossible for me to play on it because it seemed so random. I had to learn all the different flourishes and had to become expectant of what kind of sudden change in beat or open/closed cymbals would come up next. All while hitting the bass and rim of the snare equally and constantly.
Playing the bass guitar to the song was no problem for me at all.
According to Sting, the song is about being in love.
After hearing about that, I immediately thought about the lyrics "walking back from your house, walking on the moon." Originally the image to me conjured up a young man, in moonlight, walking out from under a low-hanging tree branch on the sidewalk and into the pale moonlight. "Your house" is his girlfriend's house, and he feels calm and happy and like everything is wonderful and alright and peaceful as he walks home from the one he loves.
What's interesting is that it's exactly what Sting is quoted as saying in the Wikipedia article I read all this from - walking back from his girlfriend's house in the early days eventually became the song.
The same article reads that it was his idea and he got it while walking, drunk, around a hotel room. A riff - probably the guitar or bass riff - suddenly appeared and he started singing 'walking round the room.'
Then to make it sound even more ludicrous, he replaced the lyric with 'walking on the moon.'
I actually think 'walking round the room' is more ludicrous, because while walking on the moon isn't something everyone does, including when they are in love, it is something they can imagine doing while feeling great. Walking around a room isn't and sounds stupid and useless, so I would go with that as being more stupid. How can one imagine walking in endless circles around a room as a fantasy during their emotional high?
It makes me remember something I did when I was probably five or six: I was at an apartment (my mother left me in the care of someone while at work) and in this play room. A TV commercial for Zellers had come on the TV in the adjacent living room, with one of their slogans being something like 'it's the law" or similar. I would proceed to walk around this room, repeating the word 'it's the law' over and over, while stopping to fiddle with a toy hanging on one of the doors now and then.
I remember this so well because the person who looked after me and a few other young children had a daughter who would then proceed to come into the room and copy me in annoyance, wondering why I was doing that. I'd found her characterization of me extremely funny.
Oh yeah, and that caretaker was the first person to give me a nickname - "Juicetin." (Not to be confused with the similar 'Juice' that a certain drama teacher calls me to this day).
Back to the song, that's basically what it's all about, all to basic instrumentation. It's something to listen to at the end of the day, prior to going to bed, like winding down, sort of. Only it's the most effective during a full moon, and if you can be in a position to see this moon while listening at the same time.
The music video was also quite simple and easy and laid-back - the two of them stand around playing guitar and singing while Copeland hits his drumsticks against a rocket booster. It was filmed at a space centre with rockets and all that, as well as featured footage of astronauts on the moon and in space.
The best thing about the video to me is the way it looks like it's during the morning, so the sun is perfectly in the best spot. In my head I evoke a sunny morning landscape to the song, so it matches well. Plus their moves and slow dancing and lazy playing emphasizes the mood of the song, so it's perfect.
It's delightful and I like the nature, the lyrics (and how Sting sings some of them, like the phrase "feet they hardly touch the ground") and what it makes one think about (in my case, the synesthesia it evokes). It's all generally pleasurable and delightful. It's simple.
The song is a complete blue and green and moonlight color to me.
What do you think?