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Re: Definining Experimental Music

I thought the experimental part of experimental music was to see how much of the public you could alienate and disgust with your music. You know, like Frankenstein's experiments with stitching body parts together gets hordes of villagers to chase him down with flaming torches. I've done really well so far.

Mark Sottilaro

On Saturday, August 16, 2003, at 10:10 AM, Richard Zvonar wrote:

At 1:06 PM -0400 8/15/03, David Kirkdorffer wrote:

Oh help!  I feel a semant-a-thon in the making...

much of what is termed "experimental" in music and other forms lacks a
stated goal or aim, and so really is not consciously experimenting with
anything really.

I think the quotation marks speak volumes. Many people use the word "experimental" because they lack the knowledge or the inclination to understand and describe something further. "Experimental" is in such cases often used to mean "difficult" or "inscrutable." I think this is just lazy.

Experimental music is whatever you think is experimental for you

What the hell does that mean?

Michael Nyman's excellent book notwithstanding, I think the term "experimental music" should be banished from most civilized discourse, with the possible exception on cases in which it actually means something. I'm inclined to reserve the term for describing music in which the performance (or the in-studio creative process) is and experiment (as described by David Kirkdorffer). I'd call a lot of John Cage's work of the 1960-70s as experimental because he was trying out a variety of generative methods in order to hear musics that he wouldn't have thought of otherwise. However, once such methodologies have become  a composer's standard practice they lose most of their experimental quality.

Edgard Varese famously said, "I do not write experimental music. My experimenting is done before I make the music. Afterwards it is the listener who must experiment."

Rather than "experimental music" I've begun to favor the term "non-pop" (thanks to Dennis Bathory-Kitsz).

Here's a pertinent article:



Richard Zvonar, PhD      
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