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Re: Definining Experimental Music -- was: Dangerous (learning)curves (was Fast & Trashy, Slow and Chaste)
ok, my dictionary has two entries for experimental.
The first is like David's "Pedantic View".
The second is "To try something new, especially in order to gain
experience." Like a synonym for exploratory, and a pretty good answer
to Zvonar's question about David's "Punter View".
I am hazarding a guess that the second definition is generally
preferred by musicians touting their wares, while self-effacing peers
and dissatisfied critics get even by invoking the first. Of course,
there are scientific symphonies and market-researched pop songs, so
Not Always but Often.
Whether it's conscious or intuitive, exploration is risky for the
audience. (It's risky for the performers too, but they get hold on to
the steering wheel.) Some listeners like the gamble and the thrills,
that's cool. But it seems pretty common to expect that a performer
will take you somewhere they've been before, and if they're good they
make you feel like it's new to you, and if they're really good make
it seem like it's new to them too. Like magic!
But like magic, how much sleight of hand is involved is an insider's
secret and should be kept that way. David Abrams has some nice things
to say about this, I think. Maybe it partially explains how
"experimental music" became an inside joke-- the label just gives it
away right from the start? Or is it the other way around, and we're
here defending our vital need for obfuscation?
Never meta Semant-o-thon I didn't like :-) but it's 4:04 and I'm Not
At 1:06 PM -0400 8/15/03, David wrote:
>Richard Zvonar, PhD writes....
>>> What is "experimental music"?
>Oh help! I feel a semant-a-thon in the making... :-) my $0.02
>1) The Pedantic View
>So much "experimental music" lacks a defined goal or stated aim. To
>what I mean, perhaps it can be useful to paraphrase the steps used in a
>research experiment. An experiment involves the following steps: doing
>research, identifying the problem, stating a hypothesis, conducting
>experimentation, and reaching a conclusion.
>- Research = the process of collecting information from experiences,
>knowledgeable sources, and data from exploratory experiments.
>- Problem = the musical question to be solved or examined.
>- Hypothesis = an idea about the musical question, based on knowledge and
>- Project Experimentation = the process of testing a hypothesis. Things
>effecting the experiment are called variables. There are three kinds of
>variables to identify in an experiments: independent, dependent, and
>- Project Conclusion = the project conclusion is a summary of the results
>the project experimentation and a statement of how the results relate to
>hypothesis. Reasons for experimental results contrary to the hypothesis
>included. If applicable, the conclusion can end by giving ideas for
>I have many conceptual artist friends who go through this process for
>sculptural installations. To them, this is part of what makes their work
>meaningful, and not purely random and haphazard entities.
>OK -- JUST TO BE CLEAR -- music, like any art form, is related to my
>on an emotional level, and so nice tidy descriptions of experiments will
>never seem appropriate or adequate. Random organization and haphazard
>groupings of sounds can have deeply moving effects, to be sure. But, so
>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
>2) The Punter View
>Experimental music is whatever you think is experimental for you -- one
>man's noodling is another man's new found insight.
>OK. Now I'm reaching for my popcorn...
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Richard Zvonar" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Sent: Friday, August 15, 2003 12:23 PM
>Subject: RE: Dangerous (learning) curves (was Fast & Trashy, Slow and
>> At 9:04 AM -0700 8/15/03, Paolo Valladolid wrote:
>> >Common criticisms of experimental music...
>> What is "experimental music"?
>> Richard Zvonar, PhD
>> (818) 788-2202