A bàs avec la diatonie
January 24, 2012 6:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in good musical works that not only don't use traditional western scales, but also don't use "melodic" scales at all, whether by modding instruments a la John Cage, using computers to generate partial tones, or using objects that don't create what we'd typically call "tones." I realize this could run the gamut of musical styles, so I'd prefer to stick to pieces that are known for their experimentation with sound.
posted by outlandishmarxist to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I Am Sitting In A Room by Alvin Lucier blew my mind the first time I heard it.
posted by aloiv2 at 6:59 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also Music On A Long Thin Wire, also by Lucier.
posted by aloiv2 at 7:00 PM on January 24, 2012

It does use traditional scales, sort of, but the second movement of Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra" (which is subtitled "A game of pairs") is in a sense an abandonment of traditional scales. Each instrument solo is actually a duet, with the two instruments playing a fixed distance apart, which distance is different for each instrument.

So bassoons are a minor sixth apart, oboes are in minor thirds, clarinets in minor sevenths, flutes in fifths and muted trumpets in major seconds.

The result is a feeling of having a melody without any key. It's peculiar to describe it that way, but that's how it comes off.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:01 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The most recent sound art podcast from the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Interruptions #7, was all compositions made from the sound of breathing. You'll probably find a lot of other stuff to interest you in their podcast series.

Pierre Schaeffer's Etude aux chemins de fer is one of the first pieces of "musique concrete", made up entirely of non-musical recorded sounds.
posted by moonmilk at 8:44 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hugh Lecaine- Dripsody: an electronic piece created using the sound of one drop of water.

electronique- Edgar Varese...uses all sorts of sounds from I don't know where...

Luciano Berio Sequenza series.

Check out the musique concrete movement... it includes composers such as Schaeffer, Berio, Varese, Stockhausen, etc..
posted by costanza at 8:53 PM on January 24, 2012

Best answer: Pretty much any 'musical' composition from Fluxus, e.g. "Danger Music For Dick Higgins" calls for the performer to climb inside the vagina of a living whale, the sounds then being the music. Other pieces are things like gesture music, or impossible music.

Microtonal music might interest you.

Early tape music by Reich, or things like clapping music.

Annie Gosfield does a lot of stuff with machines and the like.

And yeah - basically anything from the musique concrete movement.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:00 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in the music of Harry Partch. He invented and built a number of instruments according to his own system of tonality.

George Crumb has done some interesting things with sound.

You might also like Penderecki, perhaps particularly pieces like his Threnody (wiki).
posted by sleepinglion at 10:13 PM on January 24, 2012

Best answer: My wife did a music blog project last year that includes a lot of experimentation with sound. For your stated interest, I recommend color field, the happiest cow in switzerland, nature abhors it, classroom chorus, spinning farewells, sixxen vixen, speak sweet benny, terminal burrowing, and one of my personal favorites, the music of many tiny spheres. Several of these are on her best of the blog selections. But lots of other pieces are well worth hearing.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:45 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Easley Blackwood's Microtonal is quite interesting, and some of it is actually pleasant to listen to. My copy is at home, but IIRC, the piece(s) in the 19-tone scale was my favorite.
posted by phrits at 6:08 AM on January 25, 2012

You should listen to Helmut Lachenmann and probably Luigi Nono.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:17 PM on January 25, 2012

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