Masters in Experimental Art

[ John Cage ]

Comparing with other music genre, timbre is more important to (experimental)music.

John Cage, one of the pioneer in experimental musician, has raised a lot of concept for experimental music. In his work ‘ 0’0” ’, Cage commented, as cited by Kostelanetz (1988), ‘music  is nothing but the continuation of one’s daily work, whatever it is, providing it’s not selfish, but is the fulfillment of an obligation to other people, done with contact microphones, without any notion of concert or theater or the public, but simply continuing one’s daily work, now coming out through loudspeakers.’ This is to say, there are two key elements in experimental music: a sequence of movement/work; amplified[ come out through loudspeakers ]. Knocking the table, applauding or even shouting can be part of a sequence of movement, if you amplify them with a certain method, it can be music.

Thus we can know that everything could be musical instrument and everyone is potential musician. The variety of music depends on the moment we play it. The point is, therefore, order is simple but imagination is limitless. According to John Cage, Intermedium is even more meaningful than music itself, because intermedium decides timbre.

Cage (1962) even claimed that any sound amplified by microphone is music.

John Cage’s 4’33” defies silence

[ Arnold Schoenberg & Wassily Kandinsky ]

Arnold Schoenberg is a famous music theorist, while Wassily Kandinsky is famous for his abstractism painting. Schoenberg got acquainted with Kandinsky in 1908 in his early life. They founded Blue Rider group, which was a group of artists united in rejection of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in Munich, Germany. Inspired from each other in that time, Schoenberg started to compose atonality music, which was different than any music before that lacks a tonal center, or key, while Kandinsky made a great breakthrough in his abstractism waiting.

The atonality music, which was founded by Schoenberg, focused more on the sound itself than music theory, which was later seen as defiance to traditional music. Some theorists thought this kind of music actually has some rules, but it is based on the natural law and logic. Schoenberg developed from atonality music an important new composing method – twelve-tone technique. The basic rule in this method, is to scramble all the notes, seeing all the pitches as equality, using rhythm to control sound. This is rough form of futurism music, which was later respected and raised by John Cage in experimental music. In fact, Schoenberg was the teacher of John Cage.

On the other hand, Kandinsky, the famous painter, started painting using a very similar method with Schoenberg. This is reasonable because we might assume that the colour in painting and notes in music can be described and express in similar ways. And both works of them have a common feature which was to break the rule in art work and rebuild a form focusing on the basic elements. The style in Kandinsky`s painting was later considered as a very important form in abstractism paiting.

The interesting point is, in Kandinsky`s opinion, the colour could be heard. He often named his painting with ‘impromptu’ or ‘structure’, which was usually seen in music works.

A century later, this ability of synesthesia, was expressed by another artist – Neil Harbisson – ‘there is relative colour for most of sound.’ He mapped sound with colours.

Wassily Kandinsky, The First Abstraction, watercolor, Blue Rider Group, 1910
Masters in Experimental Art


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