Is Experimental Music a Useful Term?

Experimental music to me can be anything from something slightly apart from the predictable to music that may not even resemble music at all. And there are many creative music makers that describe themselves quite happily as being experimental. While others object to the term, claiming it is too broad and actually undermines the musical product they have created.

Experimental tends to be a label that is put on artists that stray from the norms in music. Perhaps their musical style does not follow the familiar formulas that make up a particular genre such as jazz or pop music. Perhaps the structure of their pop song does not follow the normal verse chorus and bridge structure. As a music and spoken word artist, a chorus may not even occur in one of my songs. So my music feels right to be classified as experimental. And as I am not interested in duplicating what has already been done, this feels suitable for me as well as fitting for my artistic approach and intentions.

But I do know of composers and performers of what would be considered as more creative music who do not like this term. Perhaps rightly, they feel it is just too broad and does not really define what they are doing. Also, deriving from the word experiment, it implies that their music is somehow unfinished or incomplete. The term experimental music here is understood more literally as the music being described as an experiment. Hence insinuating that the musical outcome is merely the product of some exploration and trying something out, rather than grounded in musical knowledge, craft and creativity. So experimental here is almost a derogatory term to describe music that has not arrived yet, it is still becoming. Again, I do not really have a problem with this description or interpretation and would champion the role of a few musicians to try to explore and discover new musical ground and voices. It is however understandable that some creative music makers may find this judgement patronising and critical of their music.

Ultimately, like with any label, category or genre classification the term experimental music is somewhat vague and perhaps even misleading. A lot of very popular and accessible music can entail very experimental elements and approaches. One only has to look at the Beatles for evidence of this. But one does have to define one’s creative music approach and style and for me experimental feels appropriate, honest and hopefully intriguing.

The rest is here: Is Experimental Music a Useful Term?


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