In avant garde music of the late 20th century, there is extensive exploration of alternate methods for playing traditional instruments. Although electronic instruments were established and used regularly for performance during the time, the effect and tonality of an existing instrument remains a unique and novel experience, especially when used in the context of a performance.
Here we are at part two of the Stranger Themes contest, where the contestant listens to themes from strangers, chooses themes to orchestrate, and creates compositions based on the themes. Needless to say, the themes were strange and endless. It doesn’t seem like there was any filtering out of screeching feedback or garbage trucks backing up.
If there’s one thing Beethoven is known for, it’s the use of subtle instrumentation between his enormous thematic sections. This is where the virtuosity of the players and soloists truly shines, as the music gently reinstates a theme or transitions into a new key or melodic mode. The technique of the players is left to the individual, and the results are interpretations that are original and unique.
Recently, I had the distinct opportunity to hear Geir Jenssen’s 1997 album Substrata, which has been described as a landmark in the field of ambient music. Recorded under the pseudonym Biosphere, the power of this recording is so stark and profound that it goes beyond what many people can grasp. I was skeptical when reading the reviews, but the work is spine chilling.
In the late 1970’s, video was an exciting experimental medium. Nam June Paik created the famous “TV Bra for Living Sculpture,” a piece where two tiny video screens covered cellist Charlotte Moorman’s breasts and her cello partly covered the rest. Other early video artists include Bruce Nauman, William Wegman and Peter Campus.