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Experimental Music: what's your definition?


Maximus
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So I recently posted a survey asking what young composers and listeners, like yourself, think about "experimental" music. Now there was some confusion to what this kind of music is (since once again, it's a very subjective term). 

If you completed the survey, please share your opinion below of what "experimental" music is. If you haven't completed the survey, feel free to join in the conversation. The purpose of this, as always, is to get people critically thinking.

Maximus

Edited by Maximus
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Let's take a look on genres which are usually called "experimental". For example, noise music is called experimental, and it actually is. Because, noise has no musicality, but when you try to make music using noise, it shows that you found something musical in the noise.

In my opinion, experimental music is just like paintings done by kids. A kid can't draw like a well-educated painter, but he/she can draw "his/her own point of view".

We studied music, we learned theory, and lots of composers here play at least one organic instrument. But, we also have our very own points of view, and we can't turn all of our points of view to music, with following the rules.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I adopted the following definition:

Quote

Experimental music is all written music for which the actual musical result is uncertain or unknown until the piece is performed.

This has served me pretty well since. It also avoids the problem of "experimental music" sounding like anything specific. Instead, the idea is to focus on the concept that in an experiment you aren't sure of what the outcome will be.

 

This of course should be seen as extending beyond simply saying all written music is experimental because the performance may contain errors thus it is impossible to be certain of the musical result. On the other hand, it does highlight just how fragile the idea of music being this monolithic concrete thing is. Even playback from a CD that has the music with "No errors," can have an infinite number of variations depending on the speakers used and room acoustics, etc.

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If you already know exactly what the result of applying your "creativity" is going to be, you're not really being creative, are you? You're just going through motions then.

No one knows ahead of time exactly what's going to come out of their creative process.

 

Maybe it's better to say it something like this:

When a non-experimental artist creates a creative artifact, the end result is what matters the most, and they will scrap ideas that are not predicted to produce results in the general vein of what they had envisioned.

When an experimental artist creates a creative artifact, the means justify the ends. The art gains value from the unique idea alone, and the artist may not strongly envision anything.

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1 hour ago, Hugget Zukker said:

If you already know exactly what the result of applying your "creativity" is going to be, you're not really being creative, are you? You're just going through motions then.

No one knows ahead of time exactly what's going to come out of their creative process.

You misunderstood. I mean the actual performance itself. If I write something like a minuet in G major (19th century style), it's unlikely anyone will  consider it experimental since the result is going to be very similar to other minuets written in a similar style. Now if I write a piece where it just says "Play this note for as long as possible," the actual performance has quite a few unknown elements to them. The latter would classify as experimental while the former would not, imo. I should also add that not because something has some predictable elements it takes away from the experimental nature of a piece. After all, if you wrote something for dog whistle, it's unlikely you could actually hear it, but it doesn't make the piece any less experimental since there are other (unforeseen) things that can happen because of this.

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Just gonna add a sidenote friends:

I'm glad that this has created such a debate. Definitions like these are hard to put into words; sometimes it's a feeling or vibe. Yet here we are, trying to get around our biases to put those feelings into a working definition.

To everyone who has participated so far and for those that will comment in the future, good on you for thinking deeply!

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