Experimental Composers
November 9, 2008 5:11 AM   Subscribe

MusicFilter: Looking for alternative/experimental composers in a similar vein to Moondog, Terry Riley, Erik Satie and La Monte Young. I wish to fill my ears full of surreal orchestral wonders.

Moondog is my main starting point for this.

I also add Arthur Russell to the list with a strict focus on his 'First Thought Best Thought' arrangements... and John Zorn with his 'Music for Children' in mind... I love Brian Eno, but focussing on him might send this post too far in the ambient direction.

I realise I could go to Last.fm or similar music communities, but I am looking for that subjective sense one has that links musical styles together, rather than something lodged in rigid genres, structures or histories. I hope these names and works job something in your Meta-minds.

posted by 0bvious to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You might like Anti-Social Music, a confederation of musicians and composers in NYC.
posted by milquetoast at 5:32 AM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: Instrument inventor / composer / sometime hobo Harry Partch would definitely interest you.
posted by beniamino at 6:09 AM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: Minimalism seems to be the node that I'd suggest exploring from. I know you don't mention Steve Reich, but I mentally put him in a similar category as the listed composers. Music For 18 Musicians, Drumming and Piano Phase are pieces that I'd suggest exploring if you're not familiar with him.

Other peices that might be up your street are the infamous Mysterious Thai Record (release 9).

A more recent release may be Gang Gang Dance's album God's Money. Seemed to be channelling a few of those vibes. Their new one is good too, but it's a bit dancey/clubby.

I hope that helps a bit! Feel free to mefimail me for more info.
posted by Magnakai at 6:10 AM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: The fact you're mentioning Erik Satie makes me think about Federico Mompou. This, in turn, leads to Carla Bley, especially her work with Steve Swallow. Another unique pianist : Abdullah Ibrahim. Also from South Africa, Guy Buttery. And then another guitarist : Bill Frisell. You could also check multi instrumentist Stefan Micus. And I think that you could appreciate a lot of the artists featured on the ECM label, which you probably already know. For instance, Trygve Seim. Or Egberto Gismonti.
I'm stopping here, since I really don't know if all this is relevant.
posted by nicolin at 6:36 AM on November 9, 2008

Try to find the archived shows of the relatively recent public radio series American Mavericks. Also, through OpenCourseware (or something similar) the University of Minnesota hosted the complete lectures from a course that I believe was called "Avant-Garde Music."
posted by glibhamdreck at 7:44 AM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: I'm too tired to think but will throw some names out that I would suggest you check out at allmusic or whatever:

Margaret Leng Tan (specifically, The Art of the Toy Piano)
Braincloud (aka Ayal Senior--one official release with John Fahey but numerous CD-Rs also avail)
Gang Gang Dance
Harry Partch
Jorge Reyes
Angus MacLise (was a member of LaMonte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music)
Ed Pias
Richard Maxfield
Susumu Yokota
Pauline Oliveros (and her Deep Listening Band)
Malcolm Goldstein
David Soldier (aka David Sulzer, prof at Columbia)
posted by Manhasset at 8:02 AM on November 9, 2008

John Cage
Phillip Glass
John Cale's Sun Blindness Music
Tony Conrad
Anthony Braxton
posted by hydrophonic at 8:56 AM on November 9, 2008

Anthony Moore's (from the great band Slapp Happy) first album "Pieces From The Cloudland Ballroom" is pretty Terry Riley influenced.
posted by apetpsychic at 10:59 AM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: Experimental classical music played with non classical instrumnts Mass Ensemble
posted by lalochezia at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2008

Anything with Frippertronics in it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:21 AM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: Hah, I was directed here to give my $0.02.

I'm a huge fan of Terry Riley myself, I have almost everything he's ever done.

Let's start from the Moondog reference. I think the very first place you should go is Harry Partch. Partch was also a homeless person, also composed in strange time signatures, but went further to design his own fantastic instruments and scales. I'd strongly suggest Barstow as the most approachable and most entertaining of his works, based on graffiti that he'd written down when he was a hobo during the Great Depression.

John Cage has a vast output of excellent music over a wide range. I believe you'd really love any of his prepared piano pieces. They're far sparser and more angular than the Moondog works; Cage is the direct consequence of Satie.

Now, you also seem to be interested in drones and such. Let me first insist that you run, do not walk to your nearest record store or internet seller and get "Music on a Long Thin Wire" by Alvin Lucier. This piece is simply astonishing - it's so inhuman that it's frightened me fairly deeply at points and yet it's quite quiet, you could have it on over dinner and no one might notice. The idea is simple, a long, thin wire excited with a pure tone - however, there are "chaotic" elements (though this piece was written long before "chaos theory" entered the vernacular) and you can hear suppressed energy and harmonics building up and then breaking some physical barrier and coming out.

If you can find it, Stockhausen's "Stimmung" is also sui generis. It's probably the first Western musical piece to score in overtones for voices, and it's unearthly and beautiful. Stockhausen can be a hard listen, but Stimmung is not.

Getting back to the more percussive Moondog flow, I'd been listening to such music for years before I understood how deeply these musics were influenced by Indonesian gamelan music in particular and African and Asian musics in general. If you are to go any further, you should investigate further.

The original classic that turned so many people onto gamelan is still fantastic here, "Music From The Morning Of The World". Once you start, you'll find yourself in Bali sooner or later, be warned.

It's not so clear where to start with African music, but there are lots of sources; if you want Indian classical music, might I suggest the Signature Series of Ustad Ali Akhbar Khan, these are CD reissues of his great LPs from the late 60s and early 70s when he was at his peak (sadly, unlike Ravi Shankar who only seems to improve with age, UAAK's performances fell off a cliff IMHO in the last fifteen years or so. :-( ) and be sure to pick up anything involving the tabla player Zakhir Hussain, possibly the greatest living virtuoso on any instrument, or try to catch a live performance, he's still in rare form and tours quite a bit.

Hah, I've barely begun, but these are certainly some of the basics. Never hestitate to drop me a line with questions... or if you're interested in seeing this sort of thing in New York City!

(NB: I'm intermittently keeping a radio stream up here if you like "that sort of thing".)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:57 AM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: Check out Lukas Ligeti, the son of late great composer Gy├Ârgy Ligeti, whose work you might also enjoy.
posted by Bistle at 12:14 PM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: Urg, I can't believe I didn't mention Lukas, with whom I have played on several occasions.

I have to say particularly that when I first met Lukas, I liked his ideas and his influences, his work was the sort of thing that I liked, but I didn't find it particularly memorable.

Well, his work has continued to improve dramatically - he gave me a copy of his Mystery Systems that I threw on my itunes - when it came up in shuffle a few weeks later I asked, "Wow! What was that?" and was very gratified indeed that it was my friend. It all came together.

This is a very important thing to remember - that "natural" musicians are the result of an extremely large amount of practice and thinking. Hendrix got a guitar when he was young and never stopped playing. Zappa started as a drummer, only took up the guitar because he didn't want to be behind a drum kit, it took him years to get to be any good.

I'm hoping to do a show/recording with him Lukas in 2009, I'll keep you posted.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:44 PM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: Satie was a huge influence on a group of young (at the time) composers known as Les Six. Mlihaud is my personal fave: he does a lot of experimenting with harmony and dissonance while still having a foot in the kind of simple and beautiful music that Satie and Moondog are best known for.

And nthing Partch.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:31 PM on November 9, 2008

Response by poster: Wow wow wow. Thank you all so much. AskMetafilter never disappoints.

I have a lot to go and listen to...
posted by 0bvious at 1:39 PM on November 9, 2008

George Antheil's Ballet Mecanique.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:41 PM on November 9, 2008

This is not as much of a stretch as you may initially think it is:

The Unseen by Quasimoto
posted by Bobby Bittman at 9:36 PM on November 9, 2008

Since they have been mentioned already you should consider Charlemagne Palestine, Eliane Radigue, Phil Niblock on a drone/minimalist tip similar to La Monte Young/Terry Riley.
posted by tallus at 7:19 AM on November 10, 2008

Some other musicians and artists I've been thinking about : The Georgian Contemporary Unit first, since you mentioned "orchestral wonders". Another pianist whose music definitely hints at Satie's universe, Daniel Goyone. More free stuff, Celea, Liebman, Reisinger trio. You can listen to a whole concert here, you have to click on Ecouter le concert to make the player work. And then there's also (I realize that I'm mainly giving you stuff rooted in popular music) Kip Hanrahan's work.
I've been also thinking that there's a whole field that you could check for a new listening experience : John Whitney was a pioneer of video and music interaction, but recently, Rechenzentrum produced interesting pieces, and more recently, D.V.D. also did.
posted by nicolin at 3:39 AM on November 11, 2008

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