Impressions, and an Invitation

By Lise Spragg, (new) Music Blogger

I’m relatively new to the realm of experimental music. By profession, I have studied psychology, have an Ed.S. in School Psychology, and have worked in public schools. I am a mother of 4 children, ranging in age from 2 to 14, experiencing all levels of childhood through their eyes at once. I am not a composer, but I am a musician.  My music background includes playing violin and cello, voice lessons, and some music classes while I was in college. I have listened to and played Baroque, Classical, and Romantic pieces (Beethoven’s 7th Symphony is my favorite to listen to), with some exposure to more modern composers such as Stravinsky. As I learn about experimental music, my intent is to share my discoveries and impressions. 113 Collective is where I have begun my exploration. The composers of 113 Collective approach music entirely fresh from the patterns and ways of the past, and there is so much to listen to and to consider along the way. 

I have been looking into defining what experimental music is, and what I have gleaned is that it is difficult to elucidate experimental music definitively. Indicated by the name “Experimental”, instruments in this genre of music are sometimes used in different ways than what is traditionally expected and each piece is entirely unique. Intonation, formation of sound, rhythm, repetition, even visuals can be used to bring these creations to life.  A book titled “Experimental Music Since 1970”, by Jennie Gottschalk, spends the entire first chapter discussing the meaning of experimental music. From reading her analysis of many points of view, the definition that stands out to me is attributed to James Tenney, relating the term “experimental” to the conducting of scientific experiments in music. 

Experimental music began to emerge in the mid-20th century.  Composers that I recognized at least by name from previous exposure included John Cage, Philip Glass (who appears to be more closely tied with minimalism), and even Yoko Ono.  John Cage (1912-1992), in particular, appears to be a pioneer in experimental music and was influenced by several 20-century composers that were a part of the “American Experimental School”. I was delighted to find that there are videos on Youtube of his original works that are incredibly interesting and a wonderful point of reference for looking at the beginnings of experimental music. Traditional instruments are not the only means of musical expression that he used, or that other composers use, which is almost comically illustrated in the video of his performance of “Water Walk.”  Other pieces of his, including “In a Landscape” and “Dream”, utilize more traditional piano instrumentation. I have yet to learn how these dramatically different pieces would be categorized, but listening to them is an integral part of my education in understanding experimental music origins. Current composers I listened to right here on the 113 website include Samuel Krahn, Josh Musikantow, Tiffany Skidmore, Michael Duffy, and Joey Crane. If you haven’t already, look under “Media”, watch the videos, listen to the files. Close your eyes and experience not only to the sounds but the thoughts that the composer is working to convey. 

In the experimental music that I have listened to so far, the sounds are different than what I am used to. This is thinking music. Evoking an element of surprise, what I have listened to touches on the unknown, rearranges ideas, and tells a limitless story. The intentionality of differences in feeling and instrumentation pulls the listener through to a different plane of ideas. This is not what I expected. My imagination started to run with images and stories, painted in a range of black and white to vivid hues and textures.

These pieces are new ideas, new art, created by composers of high caliber and creativity who are here, now- not from the 17th, 18th, or 19th centuries, but right now. An invitation to listen to and experience their music by one of the composers from the 113 Collective opened the experience of experimental music up to me.  And you, reader and music-lover, are invited to meet and mingle with the composers of 113 Collective to start off their season of events. Come and see, experience, and bring your children with you. As with their music, you might even find yourself surprised, delighted, and your vision broadened as the evening unfolds.   

September 20, 2019

Season Kickoff Backyard Bash

4:00 - 7:00 pm | The Ale Jail, 1787 Saint Clair Ave in St. Paul, MN


*free beer and wine tasting with food from Anchor Fish & Chips available for purchase

Children are welcome!