We have also our sound-houses, where we practice and demonstrate all sounds, and their generation. We have harmonies which you do not, of quarter-sounds, and lesser slides of sounds. Diverse instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have; together with bells and that are dainty and sweet. We represent small sounds as great and deep;

likewise great sounds extenuate and sharp; we make diverse tremblings and warblings of sounds, which in their original are entire. We represent and imitate all articulate sounds and letters, and the voices and notes of beasts and birds. We have certain helps which set to the ear do further the hearing greatly. We have also diverse strange and artificial echoes, reflecting the voice many times, and as it were tossing it: and some that give back the voice louder than it came; some shriller, and some deeper; yea, some rendering the voice differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive. We have also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances.

We have also our sound-houses, where we practice and demonstrate all sounds, and their generation. We have harmonies which you do not, of quarter-sounds, and lesser slides of sounds. Diverse instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have; together with bells and rings that are dainty and sweet. We represent small sounds as great and deep;

likewise great sounds extenuate and sharp; we make diverse tremblings and warblings of sounds, which in their original are entire. We represent and imitate all articulate sounds and letters, and the voices and notes of beasts and birds. We have certain helps which set to the ear do further the hearing greatly. We have also diverse strange and artificial echoes, reflecting the voice many times, and as it were tossing it: and some that give back the voice louder than it came; some shriller, and some deeper; yea, some rendering the voice differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive. We have also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances.

~Francis Bacon

The New Atlantis, 1626!

American Experimentalists

A great amount of experimentation with new sounds took place between about 1900-1930, both in Europe and America.

In contrast to Europe, most of the more experimental composers in America were isolated and unrecognized; many remain obscure, even today.

With most orchestras still interested in tonal music and little national support, these artists worked in smaller forms, and even
created their own instruments.

1897-1965

California/Upstate New York

Text

Henry Cowell

New Musical Resources

  • Written in 1919, not officially published until 1930

  • Rhythmicon (later built by Leon Theremin)

  • Musical system using the harmonic series for both harmony & rhythm

  • Use of player piano (later done by Conlon Nancarrow)

(does he kinda look like Beck here?)

  • The seminal American experimental composer

  • Strong new music supporter

  • String Piano = inside-the-piano

  • Tone-clusters

  • Use of American folk music & music of other cultures

1912-1997

Arkansas/Mexico City

Conlon Nancarrow

Other Paper Roll Instruments (not used by Nancarrow)

~ Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix, AZ)

1888-1965

France/New York

Text

Edgard Varese

To stubbornly conditioned ears, anything new in music has always been called 'noise'...what is music but organized noises?

Ionisation (1931)

more on Varese in a few weeks...

for percussion orchestra

1912-1992

California/New York

First Construction in Metal (1939)

John Cage

Percussion music is a transition to the 'all-sound' music of the future.  Any sound is acceptable to the composer of percussion music.

Prepared Piano (1938)

  • Placing object between the strings to dramatically change the tone

  • Practical solution to wanting percussion music, when only a piano was available

  • Used to accompany modern dance

Imaginary Landscape No. 1 (1939)

for two variable-speed turntables, frequency recordings, muted piano, and cymbal

more on Cage in a few weeks...

Other Significant Composers

Charles Ives

The word 'beauty' is as easy to use as the word 'degenerate.' Both come in handy when one does or does not agree with you.

Stand up and take your dissonance like a man.

1874-1954

Connecticut

Harry Partch

1901-1974

California/University of Wisconsin/hobo

Keep all this stuff straight!

Composer Instrument
Henry Cowell String piano
Conlon Nancarrow Player piano
John Cage Prepared piano
Edgard Varese Percussion orchestra
Charles Ives Quarter-tone piano
Harry Partch Just-intonation

American Experimentalists​

By Brian

American Experimentalists​

SNDA 1360

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