I listened to a lot of experimental music last night as I was trying not to fall asleep, and they all struck me deeply.
Some might think that this would not be considered music, but I think it is. It’s just a different way of using the sound as a canvas, much like some people debate and wonder whether abstract art is truly art.
If I had to describe myself in song, the genre would be experimental, or even atonal.
While I am a musician and enjoy making tonal music, I believe that my personality is best described by abstract, wilds sounds. It’s part of who I am. I’m offbeat, for lack of a better word. This abstract music was something that my soul seemed to be drawn to. Now, to get in the mood to write this post, I am listening to a shared favorite of my dad and me – the Bad Plus.
Their music is crazy. While it’s not quite atonal, they certainly do whatever the hell they want to. Shown above is a cover of a David Bowie song, “Life on Mars.” Some of their music is somewhat straightforward, but then songs like this and another perennial favorite, “Silence is the Question”, completely take me to another level.
It’s a whole other level of feeling. I find a sense of freedom here, whereas the best tonal, rhythmic music I have heard doesn’t feel as raw and real for me as the abstract sounds of these experimental artists do. They’re doing whatever they want, and they don’t give a damn who judges them. That’s a goal of mine right there.
So yes. While some might dismiss abstract music as utter nonsense, I find an emotional and artistic connection to it that I don’t often find elsewhere. It’s a newer way I have found to stick it to tradition and make music with raw emotion without saying a word.
This piece of mine, “Limping Dance”, is an example of what I want to do. It was improvised almost in its entirety, with a few notes stolen from other pieces, like the opening few seconds sounding a bit like “Habanera” from the opera Carmen and snatches of some pieces from previous albums of mine in there, too.
There’s another improv for y’all – a piece on my ukulele called “Misspeaking”. It’s tuned so that the open strings make a chord, and that makes for some odd sounds. This should be going up on my Bandcamp page today. It sounds lonely and scary to me.
You might be wondering what on Earth this has to do with anything, all this abstract music and whatnot. My point here is that I think I’m dancing – limping or not – into a time where I shed the notions that I have absorbed throughout my youth, “don’t play off-rhythm” being one of those. Rhythm isn’t everything, people, and saying otherwise can be lonely and scary.
I remember getting an MRI once for these headaches I was having. The tech asked if I wanted earphones so I could listen to the radio while the machine was going. I said no, because my dad had told me that morning that MRI machines weren’t scary and that they make awesome rhythmic sounds. And he was right.
I emerged from my MRI having fallen asleep, I was so relaxed. When the same tech asked how I had done the session without music. My mom piped in, saying that for me, it is music. She couldn’t have said it better. Even that clunky-sounding MRI machine was magical because it made awesome sounds.
I know there’s music all around me. What I have to do is take my thumb off the mic and listen.
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