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  • What does 'experimental' mean, in 'experimental music'?

    I'm really not entirely sure....



    I'll relate my own 'case history'.



    I tend to not listen enough to current music, and I tend to ignore genres. I find it hilarious that in what are ostensibly experimental genres like 'noise music' there are seemingly infinite sub genres - which to me are the antithesis of experimental music. I say this inquisitively, not confrontationally (sp?) but how is something experimental if it conforms to a very narrow sub genre? '(noise with wall to wall projectile vomit and habanero peppers, bright orange')



    I tend to use that adjective when describing my own music because I can't think of anything else. I AM in a sense experimenting. Since I'm trying not, deliberately to make music that conforms to anything really, I'm working from various technical levels - routing, unusual settings, etc, to surprise myself, and then eventually to find things that please me. The theory always is that working without preconceptions (as much as possible) allows me to find stuff that I wouldn't have preconceived.



    But I'm not entirely sure that this fits with the definition of the term. Does it only refer to the final product? And how, exactly? These are questions that I ask myself. Usually when I'm less drunk.

  • #2
    Hmm, to me "experimental" can only apply to a single person, or I suppose there can be schools of experimentalism, which still have one person's ethos driving it.



    The minute you slap a label on it as a movement or subgenre, it becomes meaningless. What your are doing agrees with what I consider being experimental.
    Moe---It puts the SINES in the basket, or else it gets the hose again.http://www.hotrodmotm.com

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    • #3
      labelling tends to happen after the fact. some people feel the need to analyze, intellectualize, etc and classify it. doesn't make it right or wrong its just what they do









      Quote Originally Posted by droolmaster0
      View Post

      The theory always is that working without preconceptions (as much as possible) allows me to find stuff that I wouldn't have preconceived




      i have 2 thoughts on this



      there was a group of photographers in the 80s that just shot from the waist. these guys just had no process or were totally spontaneous. then afterwards they would go through and find photos that worked and ones that didn't. ultimately it was refreshing and unique compared to stiff traditional 'super serious' photography, but it did waste a lot of materials lol



      then there's what you said about routing, strange settings, etc. this could be construed as taking process and trying to push it into more interesting and strange places. i think its a valid form of expression even if there's no structure, formula, etc. there's no shame in doing it purely for self-indugent reasons and not bowing to the pressures out there to conform

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      • #4






        Quote Originally Posted by mate_stubb
        View Post

        Hmm, to me "experimental" can only apply to a single person, or I suppose there can be schools of experimentalism, which still have one person's ethos driving it.



        The minute you slap a label on it as a movement or subgenre, it becomes meaningless. What your are doing agrees with what I consider being experimental.




        At the same time, one could approach music like I do, and still arrive at very traditional results - so I wonder whether my description is really enough. I agree with you - it isn't a 'genre' or movement....but people I respect think that calling music experimental is a copout. In a sense, I think that's right - i call it experimental because I can't think of anything else. They will throw out terms to refer to (as an example) my music as electroacoustic this or that, or other terms that I can't remember - so, in some sense I think I agree with you. But I think that something more is needed.

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        • #5






          Quote Originally Posted by gregwar
          View Post

          labelling tends to happen after the fact. some people feel the need to analyze, intellectualize, etc and classify it. doesn't make it right or wrong its just what they do



          i have 2 thoughts on this



          there was a group of photographers in the 80s that just shot from the waist. these guys just had no process or were totally spontaneous. then afterwards they would go through and find photos that worked and ones that didn't. ultimately it was refreshing and unique compared to stiff traditional 'super serious' photography, but it did waste a lot of materials lol



          then there's what you said about routing, strange settings, etc. this could be construed as taking process and trying to push it into more interesting and strange places. i think its a valid form of expression even if there's no structure, formula, etc. there's no shame in doing it purely for self-indugent reasons and not bowing to the pressures out there to conform




          What you write prompts me to ask - what really is meant by "self-indulgent reasons"? What is making music for non 'self-indulgent' reasons? I don't think that you mean simply making it for money, or a specific purpose, etc - but I"m not sure exactly what you mean. Isn't the purest music made for self indulgent reasons?

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          • #6
            When I think of "experimental music," I tend to think of albums like the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" or "Smile." Some of the songs from "Smile" are just these amazing layered vocal arrangements that are unlike anything else I'd ever heard before. It was a complete departure from anything anyone else was doing.



            Shuggie Otis's "Inspiration Information" is another example that comes to mind.



            Experimental music usually involves ignoring boundaries. You might use an unusual time signature, an experimental tuning, or a new method of composition. It might also involve a new combination of instruments, sound effects, you name it. Sometimes the artist even creates the instruments himself.



            Usually "experimental music" that succeeds artistically is conventional in some regards and experimental in others. Music that's too 'experimental' is usually so far out and removed from the norm that it doesn't appeal to most listeners on any level.



            It's an interesting topic -- i.e. what 'experimental music' really is, why people make it, and what its implications are. I used to record a lot of experimental music back in the 1980s and 1990s, and I'm still surprised now and then by some of the stuff I came up with.



            To me, one important implication of experimental music is that it makes you more conscious of when you're otherwise being conventional. You realize how often you're really just playing along with the conventions of existing musical genres.
            Kronos, Fant.G8, PC3X, K2500RS, A6, Q, M3-61, Fant.X7, Motif 8, EX5(x2), V-Synth, K2000(x2), D50, JD800, JD990, JP8080, XP30, MC909, MC505, JX-10, JX-305, TR-707, Juno 1, DR-202, Radias, Triton Pro, Wavest. SR, EMX1, ESX1, ER-1, EA-1, R3, Poly 800, RS7000, FS1R (x2), RM1X, AN200, DX200, QY70, QY100, K5000S, OB-12, Maschine,ASR10,ASR88,ASR-X Pro, EPS,Virus B, Equinox,E-Mu XL-7,MiniAK, Synthstation,X-Station, XioSynth,TG33,Venom,V50,UltraNova,Z1,Spark,Moog LP Stage II, JP8000,Tetra,Supernova 2.

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            • #7
              Well-said, Zoink.
              A dead astronaut in space...

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              • #8
                Book a gig somewhere, see if anyone likes your music. If no one does, then it's experimental music



                It helps to have no recognizable melody, rhythms that set off epileptic seizures and song titles like "Napalm Carpet Indoctrination #263 (protozoan remix)".



                You must use more effects devices than instruments. Creating feedback loops on cheap mixers is the best.



                Bonus points if you release only limited edition flexidiscs or hand painted 8-track cartridges.



                My VCAs go to 11

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                • #9
                  We all know about the weaknesses of Wikipedia, but I'm impressed by the effort put into this article to encompass all the varieties of music that gets tossed under "experimental music":

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_music



                  I've played a bit of John Cage's music. He's known for chance music, but the piece we've been working on is tightly arranged and reflects deliberate thought rather than random noodling. We tried our best to play it this past summer and we're going to give it another shot in a month. The other Cage pieces that I have heard also seem to be tightly arranged.



                  Free improvisation, which is also mentioned, is something I've also done. The really good players have a knack for creating a structure together, which probably has a lot to do with highly-developed listening skills. The ones who suck (like me), don't accomplish that so easily.



                  "In C" by Terry Riley is a blast to play with a bunch of other people. Surprisingly, that too is considered "experimental".

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                  • #10
                    Here are the experimental songs I mentioned earlier, for anyone interested.



                    The Beach Boys - "Child is Father of the Man." My favorite part starts at around 0:50. Really unusual vocal arrangement, but very nice. Brian Wilson had a friendly rivalry with The Beatles, and "Child is Father of the Man" and "Our Prayer" show that Wilson's vocal arranging ability was in a world of its own.






                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FYJZeQaIUU







                    And "Our Prayer:"






                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFY-WC3zVqs





                    Shuggie Otis was a child guitar prodigy and multi-instrumentalist, and a brilliant lyricist and melodic composer. His album "Inspiration Information" had a significant influence on a variety of musicians. It's interesting also that his father was the 'Godfather of Rhythm and Blues' himself, Johnny Otis. Here's 'Strawberry Letter #23' (see especially 29 to 3:50):






                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeXBm3IwOTM





                    "Strawberry Letter #23" was featured on Groove Armada's album "Another Late Night:"






                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PU1N5XaywsI





                    ... and later a reworked version became a top ten hit for The Brothers Johnson. Sometimes experimental music is ahead of its time and people just aren't ready to appreciate it.






                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydRDzKu-_OE
                    Kronos, Fant.G8, PC3X, K2500RS, A6, Q, M3-61, Fant.X7, Motif 8, EX5(x2), V-Synth, K2000(x2), D50, JD800, JD990, JP8080, XP30, MC909, MC505, JX-10, JX-305, TR-707, Juno 1, DR-202, Radias, Triton Pro, Wavest. SR, EMX1, ESX1, ER-1, EA-1, R3, Poly 800, RS7000, FS1R (x2), RM1X, AN200, DX200, QY70, QY100, K5000S, OB-12, Maschine,ASR10,ASR88,ASR-X Pro, EPS,Virus B, Equinox,E-Mu XL-7,MiniAK, Synthstation,X-Station, XioSynth,TG33,Venom,V50,UltraNova,Z1,Spark,Moog LP Stage II, JP8000,Tetra,Supernova 2.

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                    • #11






                      Quote Originally Posted by droolmaster0
                      View Post

                      I'm really not entirely sure....



                      I'll relate my own 'case history'.



                      I tend to not listen enough to current music, and I tend to ignore genres. I find it hilarious that in what are ostensibly experimental genres like 'noise music' there are seemingly infinite sub genres - which to me are the antithesis of experimental music. I say this inquisitively, not confrontationally (sp?) but how is something experimental if it conforms to a very narrow sub genre?




                      It's a good question. I think what happens in some cases is not that experimental music conforms to a narrow sub genre, but that it becomes one -- because of how other people decide things must be. It's a convention of thought and classification as people do it. We tend to link things by attribute, even if there is no real cladistic relationship. What you've hit upon, at least as I'm reading it, is also partly a linguistic and epistemological problem (which also relates to longstanding arguments in, for example, the history of biology as well).



                      It turns out that one man's "experimental music" is another man's "variation on an existing style of music." And for the latter, the binding factor might just be that they share the use of wooden mallets or the throwing of feces as a common feature.



                      I've also wondered how far 'out there' you have to be to be truly 'experimental.' Is it okay to call your music experimental, for example, if you're conforming to the classic western scales (Aeolian, Lydian, Phrygian, Dorian, etc.)?



                      And what if your music is atonal, even randomly atonal? Does that automatically make your music 'experimental'?



                      And then if you're REALLY far out there, you end up in an argument over whether it's even music at all.
                      Kronos, Fant.G8, PC3X, K2500RS, A6, Q, M3-61, Fant.X7, Motif 8, EX5(x2), V-Synth, K2000(x2), D50, JD800, JD990, JP8080, XP30, MC909, MC505, JX-10, JX-305, TR-707, Juno 1, DR-202, Radias, Triton Pro, Wavest. SR, EMX1, ESX1, ER-1, EA-1, R3, Poly 800, RS7000, FS1R (x2), RM1X, AN200, DX200, QY70, QY100, K5000S, OB-12, Maschine,ASR10,ASR88,ASR-X Pro, EPS,Virus B, Equinox,E-Mu XL-7,MiniAK, Synthstation,X-Station, XioSynth,TG33,Venom,V50,UltraNova,Z1,Spark,Moog LP Stage II, JP8000,Tetra,Supernova 2.

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                      • #12
                        At work, so can't comment at length, but I think that the only requirement for something to be music is that it consist of sound and silence, organized (in a very loose sense) by a human being. Other than that, one cannot describe some set of properties (rhythm, harmony, etc) that are necessary for something to be called music. I think that it's rather an absurdity for someone to be listening to something that is "REALLY far out there" and then have someone else say that it isn't music. Just because one doesn't like it doesn't mean that it doesn't qualify.









                        Quote Originally Posted by zoink
                        View Post

                        It's a good question. I think what happens in some cases is not that experimental music conforms to a narrow sub genre, but that it becomes one -- because of how other people decide things must be. It's a convention of thought and classification as people do it. We tend to link things by attribute, even if there is no real cladistic relationship. What you've hit upon, at least as I'm reading it, is also partly a linguistic and epistemological problem (which also relates to longstanding arguments in, for example, the history of biology as well).



                        It turns out that one man's "experimental music" is another man's "variation on an existing style of music." And for the latter, the binding factor might just be that they share the use of wooden mallets or the throwing of feces as a common feature.



                        I've also wondered how far 'out there' you have to be to be truly 'experimental.' Is it okay to call your music experimental, for example, if you're conforming to the classic western scales (Aeolian, Lydian, Phrygian, Dorian, etc.)?



                        And what if your music is atonal, even randomly atonal? Does that automatically make your music 'experimental'?



                        And then if you're REALLY far out there, you end up in an argument over whether it's even music at all.




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                        • #13
                          Just to toss in my own two cents here... I think experimental music and electronic in particular, consist of two main principals.



                          It transgresses musical technicality by using different or unique scales, atonality, time signatures etc and also by inventing or using unique sound sources and methods of manipulation.



                          And I think experimental music also has some sort of contemplative quality about it.



                          I think currently, most of what we would call experimental is merely a play on smashing genres together. I think true experimental music is a break with common or traditional writing methods, sound sources etc but it's also presented in a way that makes you think about what is being done or accomplished.



                          Hawkwind for instance, while I think what they did was cool, it was also analogous to the nu metal bands using a DJ for scratching or dropping beats into their songs. Yea it's experimental, but it's not what I would consider if it was the core of an art form.
                          Give me my moog, but **** off you american techno rockstar! people in countries I've never been to do it better than you!

                          Computer Music Guide

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                          • #14
                            WAUW. I don't feel like I have that much valid material to contribute to this thread, but I just wanna say thanks for an extraordinarily interesting topic that provided some serious reflection for this chap.



                            Difficult topic, since experimental music is elusive, due to vagueness of its definition and judgement in the eye of the beholder. I'll say that I don't listen to much music that doesn't experiment on a certain level, but I don't listen to any music that carry no other tag than 'experimental' (except free improvisation, which is maybe the essence of experimental music. This is still called 'free', though!). The thought that a piece of music cannot be experimental because it's in 4/4, in melodic minor, has a strong singable melody or something else entirely, is just silly to me.
                            Niels Münster

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                            • #15
                              What does 'experimental' mean, in 'experimental music'?







                              It means you don't know what you're doing.



                              If you know what you're doing, it's not experimental.

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