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

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  • #16
    Some good questions here I think. I don't think that it's correct to establish a hard threshold for any of this. And, over time, obviously, what is 'experimental' shifts.



    But I this that it's a misuse of the term to apply it to music that is very close to some recognized genre, but just a little outside of it. I'm tempted sometimes to try to apply it solely to the process, but I think that this isn't right either. I think that some serious thought about what music is, and how to make it is required. Also the desire and ability to initialize oneself and look at things anew, repeatedly. For instance, one can experiment and come up with something interesting, but then if one copies oneself again and again, it doesn't seem like it's experimental anymore. So - it would be quite legitimate, I think to say to me (just using myself as an example, since I know what I TRY to do) - "look, I know you THINK that you're making experimental music, and you may be experimenting in some sense, but your stuff sounds exactly like X, or this genre, and it hasn't really evolved much, so maybe you should just call it noise music"



    In some ways, this is a harder question (for me, at least) than 'what is music' because I think that the answer to that one is simple.









    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.




    Comment


    • #17
      As I mentioned in the other thread (and I suppose I"m biased because I just really have never liked the Beach Boys) - i think that it's a misuse of the term to call this 'experimental music'. It's pop music. It might stretch things within the genre, but I just can't see how it's experimental music in the sense in which I asked the question, and the term is used generally.









      Quote Originally Posted by zoink
      View Post

      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 2:09 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




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      • #18
        As I mentioned in the other thread (and I suppose I"m biased because I just really have never liked the Beach Boys) - i think that it's a misuse of the term to call this 'experimental music'. It's pop music. It might stretch things within the genre, but I just can't see how it's experimental music in the sense in which I asked the question, and the term is used generally.









        Quote Originally Posted by zoink
        View Post

        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 2:09 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




        Comment


        • #19






          Quote Originally Posted by mildbill
          View Post

          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.




          That is just nonsense on so many levels. My sarcastic remark is that it is YOU who don't know what you're doing.

          Comment


          • #20
            This is a VERY good answer, I think.









            Quote Originally Posted by Metrosonus
            View Post

            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.




            Comment


            • #21






              Quote Originally Posted by droolmaster0
              View Post

              As I mentioned in the other thread (and I suppose I"m biased because I just really have never liked the Beach Boys) - i think that it's a misuse of the term to call this 'experimental music'. It's pop music. It might stretch things within the genre, but I just can't see how it's experimental music in the sense in which I asked the question, and the term is used generally.




              Well, I don't begrudge anybody their taste for or against Brian Wilson. As for how you asked the question, I wasn't aware of any special or added conditions on the word "experimental."



              Over the several decades that I've followed it, 'experimental music' is the only label I've ever heard attributed to Brian Wilson's "Smile" sessions. It's designation as 'experimental' has been common enough as to be axiomatic. In its time, it was considered so far out there that it was assumed that mainstream listeners wouldn't understand it or know what to do with it if they released it. It may not be as extreme in its experimentalism as synth "noise music," but I still think the label fits for what it is.



              It is musical music, though it's certainly not "pop" by any stretch.
              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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              • #22
                Sure sounds like pop music to me, and I also think that there is a HUGE gap between what the mainstream pop music fan will accept and true experimental music. I'm not at all sure what you mean by 'special or added conditions'. I simply don't think that the experimentation that the Beach Boys did is the same kind of fundamental questioning about music and what it does that true experimental music has. It's pop music. I'm incredulous that it would be looked at otherwise.









                Quote Originally Posted by zoink
                View Post

                Well, I don't begrudge anybody their taste for or against Brian Wilson. As for how you asked the question, I wasn't aware of any special or added conditions on the word "experimental."



                Over the several decades that I've followed it, 'experimental music' is the only label I've ever heard attributed to Brian Wilson's "Smile" sessions. It's designation as 'experimental' has been common enough as to be axiomatic. In its time, it was considered so far out there that it was assumed that mainstream listeners wouldn't understand it or know what to do with it if they released it. It may not be as extreme in its experimentalism as synth "noise music," but I still think the label fits for what it is.



                It is musical music, though it's certainly not "pop" by any stretch.




                Comment


                • #23






                  Quote Originally Posted by droolmaster0
                  View Post

                  Sure sounds like pop music to me.







                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElTh1M8Xp2k
                  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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                  • #24
                    I label most of my own music as experimental. From the beginning, I've tried everything I could with solo electric guitar, and had to learn how to keep time and play in rhythm without a band. For some reason, metronomes and I never jived. So, I have odd time signatures, and always try new things. Whether it be genre or guitar effects, I do something new every time I record. Some idiotic people have said to me "Just because you use a ton of effects doesn't make you experimental." Most of my output has minimal effects. It's my playing that's different.



                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePTGc9VVZf8
                    .

                    Comment


                    • #25






                      Quote Originally Posted by zoink
                      View Post





                      pop music, bent a little bit. More pop than not. I don't think that the Beatles made experimental music either. But I'll leave this to you and others who think that this is what the topic is about - I"m just not interested in the Beach Boys in this context at all.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        The Beach Boys became even more of an experimental band after Brian fell from grace. Dennis and Carl, in particular, rose to the occasion and made different music without the confines of their original sound.



                        The Beatles... I think The White Album is a testament to experimental music. There is no "experimental sound," really. Experimentation in music is experimentation. You can usually tell when an artist is trying something different, like Lindsay Buckingham on Tusk. They wander in all directions instead of making an effort to keep the band or the original genre together. The Beatles did this very well on their last five albums.
                        .

                        Comment


                        • #27






                          Quote Originally Posted by Bucksstudent
                          View Post

                          The Beach Boys became even more of an experimental band after Brian fell from grace. Dennis and Carl, in particular, rose to the occasion and made different music without the confines of their original sound.



                          The Beatles... I think The White Album is a testament to experimental music. There is no "experimental sound," really. Experimentation in music is experimentation. You can usually tell when an artist is trying something different, like Lindsay Buckingham on Tusk. They wander in all directions instead of making an effort to keep the band or the original genre together. The Beatles did this very well on their last five albums.




                          Yup.
                          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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                          • #28
                            Well, I suppose that this thread is a failed experiment. It wasn't intended to talk about pop music. It's fine that you think that this stuff is what is meant by the term. But I'm just not interested.

                            Comment


                            • #29






                              Quote Originally Posted by droolmaster0
                              View Post

                              Well, I suppose that this thread is a failed experiment. It wasn't intended to talk about pop music. It's fine that you think that this stuff is what is meant by the term. But I'm just not interested.




                              lol



                              I never brought pop music into this conversation. I'm just making the point that Wilson's "Smile" fits the designation of experimental music, since you're so adamant about discounting it (for reasons I can't quite tell).



                              But if you want to talk about a *certain kind* of experimental music, or NOT talk about a certain kind of experimental music, then by all means, go ahead.



                              You're making more of this than it is. "Do You Like Worms?" is not a pop song, but that doesn't mean we have to talk about it.



                              Why don't you specify the particular kind of experimental music you're into, and go from there.
                              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.

                              Comment


                              • #30






                                Quote Originally Posted by droolmaster0
                                View Post

                                how is something experimental if it conforms to a very narrow sub genre?




                                Okay, let's try again. We'll assume nobody ever mentioned the Beach Boys. lol



                                To answer the quote above from your very first post, music can be experimental while conforming to a very narrow sub genre because of the word "narrow." It's experimental because it hasn't been fully explored or mapped out. "Narrow sub genres" are so named because few people (maybe just one person) have done anything like it. Narrow sub genres are very specific. Specific, if original, implies unique. It is a venturing out.



                                We're then left with the question of whether 'unique' is in some way equivalent to 'experimental' when talking about music.



                                Experiments are probing in nature. They seek -- at least in science -- to prove or demonstrate something.



                                I wonder then if the same is true of 'experiment' in music. If music can be 'experimental', then what is its aim?
                                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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