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Experimental music

Parent categories: experimental - music

Related: art music - avant-garde music - contemporary music - electronic music - futurism - free jazz - Krautrock - minimal - modern music - noise - musique concrète - tonality - The Wire (magazine)

Compare: classical music

Essays: Experimental Music Since 1969 ()

People: Masami Akita - George Antheil - Louis Barron and Bebe Barron - Glenn Branca - John Cage - Wendy Carlos - Rhys Chatham - Claude Debussy - Brian Eno - Kodwo Eshun - Pierre Henry - Kraftwerk - Moondog - Michael Nyman - Yoko Ono - Lee Perry - The Residents - Arthur Russell - Luigi Russolo - Pierre Schaeffer - Arnold Schoenberg - Sonic Youth - DJ Spooky - Karlheinz Stockhausen - Sun Ra - Velvet Underground - Edgard Varèse - Franka Zappa - John Zorn - Peter Zummo

Contrast: popular music


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. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_music [Oct 2004]

Contemporary music

In the broadest sense, contemporary music is any music being written in the present day. In practice, usage of the term tends to be restricted to composers writing avant garde music in the classical tradition.

Contemporary composers working the early 21st century include György Ligeti, Mauricio Kagel, Harrison Birtwistle, Brian Ferneyhough and many younger figures such as Thomas Adès.

There are a number of festivals dedicated to contemporary music, among them the Donaueschingen Festival of Contemporary Music and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contemporary_music

Experimental Music : Cage and Beyond - Michael Nyman

  1. Experimental Music : Cage and Beyond - Michael Nyman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Michael Nyman's book is a first-hand account of experimental music from 1950 to 1970. First published in 1974, it has remained the classic text on a significant form of music making and composing that developed alongside, and partly in opposition to, the postwar modernist tradition of composers such as Boulez, Berio, or Stockhausen. The experimentalist par excellence was John Cage whose legendary 4' 33'' consists of four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence to be performed on any instrument. Such pieces have a conceptual rather than purely musical starting point and radically challenge conventional notions of the musical work. Nyman's book traces the revolutionary attitudes that were developed toward concepts of time, space, sound, and composer/performer responsibility. It was within the experimental tradition that the seeds of musical minimalism were sown and the book contains reference to the early works of Reich, Riley, Young, and Glass. This second edition contains a new Foreword, an updated discography, and a historical overview by the author. --amazon.com

La Monte Young

Inside the Dream Syndicate, Vol. I: Day of Niagara (1965) - John Cale (Composer), Tony Conrad (Composer), Angus Maclise (Composer), La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

La Monte Young (born October 14, 1935) is an American composer whose eccentric and often hard-to-find works have been included among the most important post World War II avant-garde, experimental, or drone music. Both his Fluxus influenced and "minimal" compositions question the nature of music and often stress elements of performance not normally indicated. He is normally listed as one of the "big four" minimalists along with Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley, despite having little in common with Glass and Reich.


La Monte Young has been extremely influential, from John Cale's contribution to The Velvet Underground's sound to his own followers, including: Tony Conrad, Jon Hassell, Rhys Chatham, Michael Harrison, Henry Flynt, Charles Curtis (musician) and Catherine Christer Hennix. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La Monte Young [Mar 2006]

See also: Fluxus (art movement) - minimal music - experimental music - American music - avant-garde music - Tony Conrad - Steve Reich - Rhys Chatham - The Velvet Underground

More CDs

  1. SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century - Sonic Youth [2 CD, Amazon US]
    Wildly influential four-piece Sonic Youth have self-released their version of a tribute to the 20th century: two discs of noisy interpretations of modern, experimental classical scores. The group has chosen composers whose works leave a great amount of innovation open to the performer. This chance-embracing approach--typified and in some senses originated by John Cage--is one of the crucial turning points of "new" music. What's great about this CD is that it demonstrates the freewheeling, decidedly unserious spirit behind this music, essentially combining the legacies of punk rock and out-sound. In addition to three late works by the chance-loving Cage, there are pieces by current Merce Cunningham collaborator Takehisa Kosugi, minimalist giant Steve Reich, "deep-listening" drone lover Pauline Oliveros, and Fluxus founder George Maciunas. Longtime collaborator Wharton Tiers, the young everything-ist Jim O'Rourke, and even some of the composers themselves join in on these exercises. The result is messy, fun, and anarchic, with occasional revelations (notably James Tenney's "Having Never Written a Note for Percussion"). It's not a disc to play all the time, but it is a challenging, enthused record that ideally will point listeners toward some of the most vital music of the last half of the last decade of the second millennium. --Mike McGonigal

  • An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music: First A-Chronology, Vol. 1 - Various Artists [2 CDs, Amazon US]
    Disc: 1 1. Corale (1921) - Luigi Russolo 2. Wochende (1930) - Walter Ruttman 3. Cinq Etudes De Bruits: Etude Violette (1948) - Pierre Schaeffer 4. Scambi (1957) - Henri Pousseur 5. The Dresden Interleaf 13 February 1945 (1965) - Gordon Mumma 6. Trance #2 (1965) - John Cale 7. Untitled #1 (2000) - Otomo Yoshihide 8. October 24, 1992 Graz, Austria (1992) - Survival Research Laboratories 9. Ragout: Kuchen Rezpt Von Einsturzende Neubauten (1998) - Einsturzende Neubauten 10. Aspekt (1966) - Konrad Boehmer Disc: 2 1. Hommage A John Cage (1958-59) - Nam June Paik 2. Rozart Mix (1965) - John Cage 3. Audience (1983) - Sonic Youth 4. Poeme (Electronique (1957-58) - Edgard Varese 5. Concret PH (1958) - Iannis Xenakis 6. FTP>Bundle/Conduit 23 (2001) - Paul D. Miller AKA DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid 7. A Little Noise In The System (Moog System) (1966) - Pauline Oliveros 8. One Minute (1997) - Ryoji Ikeda

  • OHM: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music [ 3 CDs, Amazon US]
    Track Listings Disc: 1 1. Tchaikovsky: Valse Sentimentale - Clara Rockmore 2. Oraision - Olivier Messiaen 3. Etude aux Chemins de Fer - Pierre Schaeffer 4. Williams Mix - John Cage 5. Klangstudie 6. Low Speed 7. Dripsody - Hugh Le Caine 8. Main Title from "Forbidden Planet" - Bebe Barron 9. Concertando Rubato: Elektronische Tanzsuite - Oskar Sala 10. Poème Électronique - Edgard Varèse 11. Sine Music (A Swarm of Butterflies Encountered over the Ocean) - Richard Maxfield 12. Apocalypse - Tod Dockstader 13. Kontakte - Karlheinz Stockhausen 14. Wireless Fantasy - Vladimir Ussachevsky 15. Philomel - Milton Babbitt 16. Spacecraft - M.E.V. Disc: 2 1. Cindy Electronium - Raymond Scott 2. Pendulum Music - Steve Reich 3. Bye Bye Butterfly - Pauline Oliveros 4. Projection Esemplastic for White Noise - Joji Yuasa 5. Silver Apples of the Moon, Pt. 1 - Morton Subnotnick 6. Rainforest Version 1 - David Tudor 7. Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band - Terry Riley 8. Boat-Woman-Song - Holger Czukay 9. Music Promenade - Luc Ferrari 10. Rosace 3 - François Bayle 11. Mutations - Jean-Claude Risset 12. Hibiki/Hana/Ma - Iannis Xenakis 13. Map of 49's Dream the Two Systems of Eleven Sets of Galactic Intervals - La Monte Young Disc: 3 1. Speech Songs: He Destroyed Her Image - Charles Dodge 2. Six Fantasies on a Poem by Thomas Campion: Her Song - Paul Lansky 3. Appalachian Grove I - Laurie Spiegel 4. En Phase/Hors Phase - Bernard Parmegiani 5. On the Other Ocean - David Behrman 6. Stria - John Chowning 7. Living Sound - Maryanne Amacher 8. Automatic Writing - Robert Ashley 9. Canti Illuminati - Alvin Curran 10. Music on a Long Thin Wire - Alvin Lucier 11. Melange - Klaus Schulze 12. Before and After Charm - Jon Hassell 13. Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills) - Brian Eno

  • Morton Subotnick: Silver Apples of the Moon (1967); The Wild Bull (1968) - Morton Subotnick [Amazon.comp]
    Morton Subotnick (b. April 14, 1933) is one of the acknowledged pioneers in the field of electronic music and an innovator in works involving instruments and other media, including interactive computer music systems. He was the first composer to be commissioned to write an electronic composition expressly for the phonograph medium, Silver Apples of the Moon (Nonesuch 7114, 1967). This now classic work along with The Wild Bull (Nonesuch 71208, 1968), A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur (Nonesuch 78001, 1978) and The Key to Songs (New Albion 012, 1987) have been choreographed by leading dance companies throughout the world and remain in permanent repertoire.

  • Rainbow in Curved Air - Terry Riley [Amazon US]
    Riley is one of the granddaddies of Minimalism. His early music, In C and the two works on this disc, brought to light the musical possibilities of rapid-fire notation and shifting sonic textures to a new form of music. Riley has done this primarily through electronic keyboards and computer technology. The composer plays all the instruments on this extraordinary disc: electric organ, electric harpsichord, "rocksichord," dumbec, tambourine, and soprano saxophone. The music is spooky and hypnotic and is an early masterpiece in the genre. It belongs in the collections of anyone interested in late 20th century American music. --Paul Cook for Amazon.com

  • Steve Reich - Remixed [1 CD, Amazon US]
    The beauty of Steve Reich's minimalist compositions can be found not in their repetition but in their evolution. Listening to the Kronos Quartet perform Different Trains, the listener quickly gets over the camp value of the conductor samples to discover an unfolding theme that harks back not only to bustling industrialism but also to the horror of the Nazi concentration-camp trains. Reich is a master of such subtle changes in sonics, and his impeccable timing turns simple phrases into musical tapestries. On Reich Remixed, some of dance music's more innovative artists pay homage to the composer in the way they know best: by sampling his works and remixing them into their own. Coldcut's take on Music for 18 Musicians adds a fast-paced techno flair to the classic composition, Howie B's Eight Lines respectfully keeps the integrity of the original piece, and Tranquility Bass peppers "Megamix" with voices and (eventually) beats. There are some misses here, and, most unfortunate, DJ Spooky's schizophrenic treatment of City Life lobotomizes a previously fine composition. No, you still can't dance to Reich, but you can see how others use him for source material. But after hearing these condensed and diced versions, you might find it's worth delving back into Reich's originals to hear what the fuss is all about. --Jason Verlinde

    Terry Riley: In C (1964) - Terry Riley

    Terry Riley: In C (1964) - Terry Riley [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    In C is an aleatoric musical piece composed by Terry Riley in 1964 for any number of unspecified performers, but preferably 35 or more. As its title suggests, it is in the key of C, the simplest key to perform on the piano. It is a response to the abstract academic serialist techniques used by composers in the mid-twentieth century and is often cited as the first minimalist composition. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_C [May 2005]

    Terry Riley
    Terry Riley (born 24 June 1935 in Colfax, California) is an American minimalist composer. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Riley [May 2005]

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