- Cecilia Sun
A diverse set of musical practices that gained momentum in the middle of the 20th century, characterized by its radical opposition to and questioning of institutionalized modes of composition, performance, and aesthetics.
Initially a predominantly American phenomenon, the varied music styles that have been called experimental do not share one defining compositional characteristic. On the contrary, the experimental label has encompassed a wide array of music: from the indeterminacy of John Cage to the completely determined music of early minimalism, from the singular event pieces of George Brecht to La Monte Young’s eternal music, and from the anarchic theatricality of a Fluxus “happening” to the focused collective serenity of Pauline Oliveros’s Sonic Meditations. Sharing a rejection of musical institutions and institutionalized musical values, experimental composers worked outside the European art music mainstream, finding an alternate path to the then-sanctioned choice between neo-classicism and serialism. Although there have been fruitful interactions between experimentalism and modernism (most notably in Cage’s seminal appearance at Darmstadt in ...