Slides in this set
· Experimental music is music that goes against the usual conventions of music as we know it today.
In experimental music people believe sounds can be made by all sorts of objects and instruments
to make `music'. It challenges the idea of what music is, and how is it defined. Is music different
from noise and just `sounds', or can music be anything?
One of the most influential composers of experimental music is John Cage, he is most famous for
his piece "4'33" in which none of the players of the orchestra play throughout the piece.
· Four minutes 33 seconds is also 273 seconds and this represents -273 degrees in which vibrations
stop as the temperature is too low. The absence of vibration is reflected in his piece as there is no
music, he's demonstrating the effect of theoretical silence and what happens as a result of it. (All
this from nothing ;)
Here is John Cage talking about silence.
Conventions of Experimental music
· Experimental music can be Alleatoric, which means that the notes could be decided by
tossing a coin etc to give unpredictable outcomes. Some would say this is random nonsense,
but since `sounds' and `noises' in our day to day life seem to be `random' like traffic or birds
singing, then in fact is this concept more natural?
· As standard notation would be extremely difficult and wouldn't allow the freeness of
experimental music, Graphic notation is used. This comprises of shapes, symbols and
diagrams of different colours showing the performers the general direction in which they
have to play.
This is Ligeti's Artikulation
This is "Three for four" Animated Graphic score
Techniques of experimental music
· "Extended instrumental techniques" are methods and techniques played by instruments that
are not normally used, this is done (usually in unusual ways) to create new and interesting
sounds. "Extended vocal technique" is the same concept except with the voice; barking,
hissing, panting, whistling are all heard in this technique.
Here is a women singing Stripsody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBiz2EYUnUA
· Multiphonics is when two or more notes are played at the same time on an instrument that
is designed to produce only one note at the time; this can be done through special fingerings
and changes in lip position.
· Singing and Speaking into the instrument
· Quartertones are also involved in experimental music
· Note Bending is used, this is when a pitch is sounded but then it is altered up and down a
quarter/semi tone…read more
· Electronic music uses sounds that are generated and / or manipulated electronically. Electronic
pieces only use electronically generated sounds, sometimes pre-recorded and sometimes live
before an audience. Electro-acoustic music is a combination of instruments or voices which are
`real' combined with electronic sounds.
· The first breakthrough in electronic music was the invention of the recording tape.
· In the 1940s Pierre Schaeffer experimented with these tape recorders and combined natural and
man-made sounds to make a sort of `musical collage'. This became known as music concrète.
Sounds were recorded on a tape and then manipulated.
This is Pierre Schaeffers "etude aux chemins de fer" (Railways Etude)
· The sounds could be manipulated by:
· Changing the speed they are played at
· Playing them backwards
· `Spliced' (cut up)
· Looped (where a short section of tape sound is repeated over and over again)
· Put on top of each other
This is Stockhausen's "Gesang der Junglinge"
Invention of more digital devices
· During the 1950s people started to invent more and more digital devices like oscillators ("an
electronic circuit which produces a repetitive electronic signal"), amplifiers and in 1955 the
first synthesiser was invented. It was made up of a punched paper tape and took up the
Some ways of which sound can be manipulated are shown here:
· Chorus: An effect created by taking an audio signal and mixing it with several different
copies of itself, sounding as though there are several instruments/voices when there is really
· Delay: Any type of effect that adds a dealyed version of the original signal, to create effects
such as reverb or echo. (to clarify, Reverb and Echo are types of Delay)
· Attack and Decay are used to vary how long it takes for a sound to reach it's peak amplitude
(this being the attack) and how long it takes to fade away (this being the decay)
· Filtering: Cutting out unwanted frequencies…read more