Saturday, October 22, 2005

Experimental vs Conventional

Experimental vs. Conventional

If you've been bored enough to stoop so low as to follow my mis-adventures , you know I've been downloading legal, free, avant garde music, anti-music, noise/folk, and extreme sonic experimentation.

After listening to all this wild innovation, then also listening to a compilation of Les Paul guitar work from the 1950s, It Suddenly Dawned On Me.

What is "experimental music"?

Not "amateur" messing around idiotically, although a little dose of that never hurt anybody. The Beatles "Black Album" has some clowning around. I'm interested in George Harrison's and Paul McCartney's experimental electronic music, which costs more than their regular music albums. Did you know that?

Les Paul, the famous and respected guitar maker and player, gets very strange and wild, at least in his 1950s recordings that I have. His 1974 material seems a bit calmer, tamer, but still enjoyable.

So here is Les Paul, the virtuoso, the highly talented, the massively skilled, the musician's musician...doing oddball, almost anti-musicianship music. At times his guitar sounds like a metal percussion instrument, or an electronic keyboard synthesiser.

Then you have bands like Bromp Treb Soundsystem aka Poo Samurai aka Canopy of Darkness aka Mind Phantom. Their free downloads are hosted at Puzzling Recordings, which also contains such bands as Deer Hoof, the split off group of pioneering noise folk electronic medieval bash band Caroliner, who "sang" "songs" about sewing their weird stage costumes, and events as though we were all still living in the 1590s.

See the article "Caroliner, Gargoyle Mechanique" by Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker:

Not everyone has the ears trained to discern the grating grandeur of such Bromp Treb tracks as:

"Trouble in the Miks -side 1"

"Dub Scratch Mishap"

"Mustard Incense"

"Fantastic Wussy Wussy"

"unquestionably unkind"

"Autoberserk PCP Enemy Vocal Mix"

"24-7 Grave N' Save"

"Cuestick Battle Marco Polo"

...are all good examples of the brutal, and often fatal, deconstructing of Rap/Hip Hop, New Wave, Techno, and Rock musiques...

What it means to be engaged in --//stripping\ \--conventional electronic music to its primal core and leaving it there, molten, livid, mutilated, all blurry around the edges and in the middle, now safely and happily alien and unknown all over again.

Fat Worm of Error, in league with Bromp Treb, continues the exploration of dismantling the elemental particles of modern dance and chill music, making the component parts add up to a new whole that breaks all rules of melody, rhythm, and "song".

Eddie The Rat, a collection of SF Bay Area artists, deconstructing classical, rock, blues, and hippie congregational folkway musics.

Tumble Cat Poof Poofy Poof playing gently his musical minimalism mayhem at The Schoolhouse.

The Apartment's "Three Forks" album at Comfort Stand is remarkably strange music for jaded ears.


Flashing Flash of INsight

My insight is this:

"experimental music"/"avant garde" or "difficult" music: the players love the instruments as they exist in themselves, in their instrumentality, it's all about the instrument's beautiful or weird tones, it's all about exploring it's dimensions, and not about the musician's musicianship, only what the musician can do for the instrument to bring out its full range of sounds.

Now, to bring out the instrument's full range of sounds, it may require some virtuosity. But true virtuosity respects the wild impulse, the creative leap, the "what would happen if I did this?"

"conventional music"/"mainstream" or "commercial" music: the players are proud of how well they play the instruments, it's all about the playing, and not the instrument in itself, only what the instrument can do for you.

Yet even conservative conventional music has to have some innovation, else every song would sound the same.

Just some murky observations regarding the unseen world of musical experience.

My friend Bennett Theissen, along with Gary R., we form a little Strangely Beautiful, Beautifully Strange Music Admiration Society. We goad each other to discover ever more bizarre, but interesting, or amusing, or deeply challenging music art.

Music to my mind embraces every sound in the universe, from amoeba splitting to galaxies colliding. I include all forms of sound, even what some call "noise". What is one man's annoying noise is another man's magnum opus.

Noise annoys? Not always. Especially around Halloween time, this autumn upon us, the sound of a creaking door on its rusty hinges, chains dragging across a tile floor, or the screech of a cat seem of interest. Particularly in science fiction and horror films and in formal haunted houses.

As any astro-physicist: this universe is a noisy place. Technically, there is probably infinitely more "noise music" in the cosmos than there is "music music".

I like experimenting with music, not just "making" music. Experimenting with clouds of fuzzy sounds, rivers of rotating pulsations, and sonic blurs swirling in the shadows.

"Songs" are what musicians make.

"Studies" or "works" are what anti-musicianship experimentation creates.

An "anti-musician" or "noise-composer" can easily and readily switch into making conventional "songs music".

But, on the other hand, very few conventional musicians can stop following their little arbitrary consensus "rules" and go wild with exploratory improvisations. Many of them stop cold and frown at the mere thought of spontaneous or radically extreme sound generation.

Lesson for Bloggers

The moral of the story is this: don't be afraid to be unique.

You may prefer Jimmy Buffet or Bob Dylan to Bromp Treb or The Sonic Clams. I love Buffet and Dylan, too.

Two of my most recent purchased CDs are Jimmy Buffet "License To Chill" album and Bob Dylan's "Self Portrait" album. Both are extremely beautiful.

I'm not trying to convert anybody to my tastes in music and noise formulations.

Here's what I encourage all you bloggers to do...

Launch out toward your envisioned uptopian blog, the ideal you see in your mind, with great boons and benefits to your readers and to other bloggers who visit and learn from you.

Stay on the bleeding edge of everything as much as possible.

Learn to hate mediocrity, imitation, and artistic restrictions.

Bust your blog wide open, blow it apart, fling it triumphantly into the constellations of the immaterial.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

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