- John Cline
A term coined by the radio DJ and author Irwin Chusid in 1996 to describe a loosely related set of recordings that do not fit well within any pre-existing generic framework. The art critic Roger Cardinal first used the term “outsider” in 1972 in relation to visual art. His usage translated into English the French artist Jean Dubuffet’s term art brut, which arose from Dubuffet’s interest in the artwork of criminals and the mentally ill. The term “outsider art” was in wide circulation during the 1970s and 80s, when many examples of what became now known, after Chusid, as “outsider music” were first being analyzed by collectors of outré records; Lester Bangs mentioned two key outsider musicians, Wild Man Fischer and Jad Fair, in his essay “A Reasonable Guide to Horrible Noise” (1981). V. Vale explored similar terrain in the early 1990s. Outsider music does not involve any definite stylistic qualities; criteria for inclusion are generally either negational or relational. Much outsider music exhibits idiomatic characteristics of established genres, ranging from opera (Florence Foster Jenkins) to country music (the Legendary Stardust Cowboy), although in an idiosyncratic fashion. Other examples defy precedent, leaving the critical listener understanding initially only what the music is not (as with Fischer’s a cappella compositions). The term “outsider” is, almost by definition, controversial. From Dubuffet to Chusid, it has concurrently carried connotations of both psychological pathologies and an assumption of a purity of expression at the boundaries of culture....