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Experimental music

From Academic Kids

Experimental music is any music that challenges the commonly accepted notions of what music is. There is an overlap with avant-garde music. John Cage was a pioneer in experimental music and defined and gave credibility to the form.

As with other edge forms that push the limits of a particular form of expression, there is little agreement as to the boundaries of experimental music, even amongst its practitioners. On the one hand, some experimental music is an extension of traditional music, adding unconventional instruments, modifications to instruments, noises, and other novelties to orchestral compositions. At the other extreme, there are performances that most listeners would not characterize as music at all.

Contents

Keywords

Aleatoric Music- Also called 'chance music' (Cage's habitual usage). Music in which the composer introduces the elements of chance or unpredictability with regard to either the composition or its performance.

Graphic Score- Music which is written in the form of diagrams or drawings rather than using “conventional” notation (with staves, clefs, notes etc).

Microtones- A pitch interval that is smaller than a semitone. This includes quarter tones and intervals even smaller. Composers have experimented in dividing the octave into 31 and 53 microtones, and using this scale as a basis for composition.

Techniques

Some of the more common techniques include:

  • "Prepared" instruments. Ordinary instruments are modified in their tuning or sound-producing characteristics. For example, guitar strings can have a weight attached at a certain point, changing their harmonic characteristics (Keith Rowe is one musician to have experimented with such techniques). The prepared piano is also common.
  • Unconventional playing techniques. For example, strings on a piano can be plucked with a pick instead of being played the orthodox way, or the tuning pegs on a guitar can be rotated while a note sounds (called a "tuner glissando").
  • Incorporation of instruments or scales from non-Western musical traditions
  • Use of sound sources other than conventional musical instruments such as trash cans, telephone ringers and doors slamming.
  • Playing with deliberate disregard for the ordinary musical controls (pitch, duration, volume), as when depressing as many piano keys as possible with the forearm
  • Use of tunings or scales inconsistent with the Western chromatic scale

While much discussion of experimental music centers on definitional issues and its validity as a musical form, the most frequently performed experimental music is entertaining and, at its best, can lead the listener to question core assumptions about the nature of music.

The London based independent radio station Resonance FM, founded by the London Musicians Collective, frequently broadcasts experimental and free improvised performance works.

The Experimental Music Catalogue, founded in 1968 by Christopher Hobbs, publishes scores and recordings of experimental music.

David Cope (1997), describes experimental music as that, "which represents a refusal to accept the status quo." He describes a "basic outline" from "simple to...complex":

  • Situation and circumstance music
  • Soundscapes
  • Biomusic
  • Antimusic

Notable composers and performers of experimental music

Main article: List of experimental musicians

See also

Further reading

  • John Cage, "Experimental Music" and "Experimental Music: Doctrine", in Silence (Wesleyan University Press, 1961)
  • Michael Nyman, Experimental Music, Cage and Beyond (Cambridge University Press, 1974)
  • Thomas B. Holmes, Electronic and Experimental Music: Pioneers in Technology and Composition (2002)

Source

  • Cope, David (1997). Techniques of the Contemporary Composer. New York, New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 0028647378.

External links

  • Resonance 104.4FM (http://www.resonancefm.com/) - Resonance 104.4fm is London's first radio art station, brought to you by London Musicians' Collective.
  • [1] (http://www.experimentalmusic.co.uk/) - Experimental Music Catalogue has been publishing American and British experimental music scores and recordings since 1969. This site sponsors the Journal of Experimental Music Studies (JEMS), a peer-reviewed online journal devoted to experimental music.
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