Some albums feel specifically designed to propel music forward. Like their very existence is intended to challenge listeners’ notions about what music is, what it can and/or should accomplish, and how we can expect to consume and enjoy it. Extreme metal, perhaps more than any other genre in any medium…
Avant-garde classical music took a huge leap forward in the 50s and 60s when a handful of composers (including John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, among others) began to play around with simply wild ideas in terms of composition, beyond anything that the likes of Schoenberg or Webern had done in the past. One of the minds essential to this period was one Iannis Xenakis, a Greek composer and architect who applied the same mathematical concepts he used to to make buildings to compose music, eventually coining the term “stochastic” music to refer to the mathematical, statistical, and physical principals being applied to music. While he’s perhaps not as well remembered as Cage or Stockhausen, Xenakis was nonetheless an important composer, and an early adopter of electronic music, with this compilation today being a collection of his earliest musique concrète compositions. (The term musique concrète was a French term coined by Pierre Schaefer, whose early experiments with tape recordings essentially laid the foundation for the future of electronic music.)
For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.
While we will never come up with a universally accepted description of what separates art from the rest of reality, we can make some easy guesses about it—namely, that art, in one way or another, derives its meaning and beauty from structure. The quadrivium—one of the oldest examples of pedagogy in Western thought—includes music as one of its pillars because of art’s importance and reliance on these aforementioned elements; after all music is quite literally math in motion. Any sound, from the buzz of a crowd to the slap of a bass guitar to the clinks and clangs of machinery, can be said to have a certain pitch and be a certain length of time, and can therefore be considered to be privy to certain rules, even if we have made up said rules. But, as with any rule or law, it cannot exist without offenders to truly define it. A society without murder wouldn’t need (nor could even comprehend) a law barring its use. (If you want to get simpler, it’s yin and yang—one part cannot exist without the other.) This, however, is where improvisation comes into the conversation of music, as it completes the circle. The serpent is now metaphorically biting its own tail.