What is called minimal art is often organized according to principles that are conceptually unfamiliar and undertheorized.

In music, many contemporary works contain a high degree of repetition and variation, but consistently ignore traditional expectations regarding the motion and resolution of tones. Critics call some of this music minimal and say that it is stripped down or flattened out, even when the use of rhythm, texture, and timbre in these works is complex and sophisticated. These critics not only miss the complexity. They fail to see that tight repetition and variation of intentionally limited, non-resolving tonal material is a valid organizing principle in its own right (see also: serialism). The critics should know better, given the high degree of repetition and variation in older, better understood music.

The dismantling of once-durable artistic traditions near the turn of the 20th century has led to formal free-for-all; new, sincere approaches to structure; and yes, art that at times is as cynical and gaudy and vulgar and bizarre as the world that produces it. In music, the disintegration of Euroclassical tonality led both to formal chaos and to the creation of lots of good music, including popular music, which (like minimal music) is also misunderstood, and for similar reasons. A more charitable critical approach attempts to take this music seriously and understand how it is organized. Such an approach also gives some conceptual leeway to artists working in a world where the old order has passed away.