"Experimental" violin music

Edited: March 2, 2018, 6:19 AM · I've been listening again to some old albums I have and re-discovered my love for the critical acclaimed Loveless (1991). While the album didn't sell well, "critics praised its sonic innovations and Shields's virtual reinvention of the guitar" and some people have pointed out that "It's rare in guitar-based music that somebody does something new [...] At the time, everybody was like, 'How the fuck are they doing this?' ".

There have been some pianists doing more "experimental" composing like Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata" or Gibson's "The Four Pillars Appearing From the Equal D Under Resonating Apparitions of the Eternal Process in the Midwinter Starfield".

Now I wonder if there is anything similar for the violin. Something that could account as a "reinvention" of the instrument. What are some uses of violin, either popular or highbrow music, that lead people to think "I didn't know you could do something like that with a violin"?

Lubelski sort of fits what I'm thinking of. This for example, but it isn't very good imho.

Replies (22)

March 2, 2018, 8:19 AM · This is a nice piece:
The cello solo is also great:

I also like this one, but don't have a recording:

March 2, 2018, 9:10 AM · Interesting, but I must draw the line at anything that could damage the violin, its strings or bow (which is why I don't do col legno unless I have a CF bow to hand). The other issue for me, a rather contentious one, is at what stage does "experimental" violin music cease to be musical?
March 2, 2018, 9:27 AM · There's some interesting compositions using loop and effects pedals that might count.
March 2, 2018, 10:18 AM · Those two clips Stefan referenced above are like sound effects to me, and I have a difficult time calling it « music ». I suppose in my mind music should have some form of melody.
March 2, 2018, 11:36 AM · Yeah but if melody is your only qualifier to music, then you'll be saying that percussion isn't music, or John Luther Adam's gorgeous creations also aren't music because it lacks melody...

Mari Kimura's subharmonic technique is really fascinating. Something worth exploring more for composers I think.


Edited: March 2, 2018, 12:55 PM · Not all percussion rendition is music, and should vary in tone, rhythm, and harmony otherwise it is just noise, boom, boom, boom... ding... boom, boom, boom ... ding ... boom, boom, boom,... ding... boom, boom, boom ... ding ... boom, boom, boom... ding... boom, boom, boom ... ding ...boom, boom, boom... ding... boom, boom, boom ... I.e. rhythm alone doesn’t make music. A train rhythmical noise isn’t music (although at the origin of Bebop apparently). Webster defines music as « vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony « . Therefore technically and by definition experimental music is of course music and an artistic expression one may like or dislike, but let just say that in general I like melodious music much better.
March 2, 2018, 12:57 PM · George Crumb's Black Angel is an interesting composition with some unusual techniques


In particular, some parts require the bow to be placed behind the L.H fingers.

March 4, 2018, 7:23 AM · https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-ELYzjFQcU
When he started playing Stefan's link, my first thought was, 'that's a good way to damage your bow' and half way through , sure enough, the bow hair was hanging off.

Music is a universal language that communicates directly to our minds and hearts and without saying it was bad, it gave me a feeling of utter despair so I didn't get to the end........

Edited: March 4, 2018, 7:52 AM · >it gave me a feeling of utter despair

Well, there are many pieces like that...

It could be a different thread. Music of utter despair.

March 4, 2018, 11:40 AM · Brilliant! I could start it off with that cello piece followed by pretty much anything by Philip Glass....Someone once got me tickets to a concert of his and I shamefully, fell fast asleep, in the front row too. Any more offers for music to make you want hide under a duvet until it stops.... Maybe that's why it is of indeterminate length ,so that when you pop your head out after a couple of days it will still be going strong.....
March 4, 2018, 4:20 PM · Many years ago, on the BBC radio's "3rd Programme", now called Radio Three, and devoted mostly to music, there was a live studio first performance of a piece for percussion by one Piotr Zak.

When it finished some eminent music critics in the studio discussed it learnedly at some length, but were most distressed when they were later informed that "Piotr Zak" was no more than a couple of studio technicians who had been instructed to bang away at random on an assortment of percussion instruments in the studio. Going on memory, I think the date of that broadcast was April 1st.

I have accordingly been deeply suspicious of some kinds of "music" ever since, especially if it has no tune that can be hummed or remembered, or has no identifiable harmonic or rhythmic structure.

Edited: March 4, 2018, 6:11 PM · But in the Piotr Zak case nobody liked what they heard, in fact

"The work was reviewed by three critics, who gave unenthusiastic or outright condemnatory reactions."

"Rollo Myers, writing in the Listener, was harsher still, accurately identifying the piece as a farce d'atelier (studio prank) with "no possible claim to be considered as music", and characterising the BBC's broadcast of such a thing "a serious error of judgment".

"What made the whole thing all the more deplorable was the high-falutin' publicity surrounding it in which we were told, inter alia, that ". . . the tape exploits the full range of the aural spectrum, controlled by strictly measurable quantities—frequency ratios, velocity graphs and decibel indexes"—all this to describe what seemed to me to be a series of the more unpleasant kinds of kitchen noises, accompanied by bangs and thumps, hisses, shrieks and whistles"


Nobody fell for the hoax, as it has happened in other fields like the Pierre Brassau affair. The experiment, willing to demostrate "that some contemporary compositions are so obscure as to be indistinguishable from tapes of percussion played at random" failed since no critic of music considered it to be much more than random noise.

The creator of the experiment was mental thinking the random drumming recorded was anything like Stockhausen.

March 5, 2018, 6:07 AM · When in utter despair about a hoax the only thing that helps is to hum some contemporary music.
Edited: March 5, 2018, 7:51 AM · Demian, that's interesting, I wasn't aware the Piotr Zak hoax has been written up on Wikipedia, and was relying on my recollection of a radio broadcast and talking about it to one or two others later. So my recollection of events 57 years on was not entirely accurate!
March 5, 2018, 3:45 PM · Q: What is the definition of "percussionist?"

A: Someone who likes to hang out with musicians.

March 5, 2018, 4:13 PM · There's a lot of music with guided aleatoric elements, or sound installations that is activated by wind or other chance elements, many of which I find very beautiful and touching. At any rate we can debate on the meaning of music and what's beautiful or ugly, but that's really not what the OP is asking...

Maybe OP can look into spectral music and discover some new love in it.

March 7, 2018, 5:25 AM · I've been thinking about this discussion and it has inspired me to make a composition using a paintbrush and a wine cork. It may sound ridiculous but what if I applied that thinking to my violin. It is an object of beauty and fragility but am I following all the 'rules' of playing too closely so it inhibits creation. Seriously, since thinking about the ideas raised here I am starting to understand what Simon Fischer means when he says every note has a beginning a middle and and end.


March 9, 2018, 7:15 AM · Trevor, when doing the Gadfly Suite recently, I used my pencil for the Col Legno.
I have toyed with the idea of composing a set of variations on a theme of John Cage (Yes, you've guessed which one!) - but I draw the line at opening up the violin, unless I can have a luthier guest co-performer.
March 9, 2018, 10:12 AM · Will that was funny.

Q. Why does the drummer have drool running from the corner of his mouth?

A. Someone needs to level the stage.

Back to the subject matter. I guess it depends of what a person considers a reinvention of a thing as compared to a modification. If you go too far you can no longer call it a reinvention.

The OP seems to be talking more about the music and not the physical instrument. There have been many changes to the basic violin. I won't mention that because I don't think this is the kind of input she's looking for.

I would say the answer is probably in electronics if you want something really off the wall.Those other sounds reminded me of the kind of noises I made when beginning to play :-)
There are absolutely no limits to what can be done running through effects processors.In addition to effects processors you can convert the violin audio to midi and then do anything you please with it. Use samples of owl noises. The sky really is the limit here.I could take a dry violin track and make it sound like a whale in mating season....not that this is something I would do :0)>

Edited: March 9, 2018, 11:26 AM · I am not sure if this qualifies for experimental violin music, but my already very high regard for Yehudi Menuhin's collaboration with Stephane Grappelli was increased by this recording made with Ravi Shankar.
Menuhin possessed an adventuresome spirit willing to try new things. He stated in "Unfinished journey" that he played the Beethoven V.C. for 50 years and implied that it was harder and harder to compete with his younger self. Check out the 6:30 mark, on this clip.
Edited: March 9, 2018, 1:07 PM · here's Frank Zappa playing a bicycle with a bow, on the Steve Allen show in 1963. was Frank ahead of his time?


first circle jerking and now the f word. shocking!

March 11, 2018, 12:53 AM · Katt Hernandez. Got her start in improv music with the Michigan Youth Symphony Jazz (not really) Improv Workshop, a degree in music from the U of M in improv, now lives in Europe. Sweden I think. Was a high school friend of mine (actually invited her to join the improv workshop long ago) and plays some pretty out there stuff. Late starter, but quick to catch up. Always creative.

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