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Michael Nyman's book is a first-hand account of experimental music from 1950 to 1970. First published in 1974, it has remained the classic text on a significant form of music making and composing that developed alongside, and partly in opposition to, the postwar modernist tradition of composers such as Boulez, Berio, or Stockhausen. The experimentalist par excellence was J Michael Nyman's book is a first-hand account of experimental music from 1950 to 1970. First published in 1974, it has remained the classic text on a significant form of music making and composing that developed alongside, and partly in opposition to, the postwar modernist tradition of composers such as Boulez, Berio, or Stockhausen. The experimentalist par excellence was John Cage whose legendary 4' 33'' consists of four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence to be performed on any instrument. Such pieces have a conceptual rather than purely musical starting point and radically challenge conventional notions of the musical work. Nyman's book traces the revolutionary attitudes that were developed toward concepts of time, space, sound, and composer/performer responsibility. It was within the experimental tradition that the seeds of musical minimalism were sown and the book contains reference to the early works of Reich, Riley, Young, and Glass. This second edition contains a new Foreword, an updated discography, and a historical overview by the author.


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Michael Nyman's book is a first-hand account of experimental music from 1950 to 1970. First published in 1974, it has remained the classic text on a significant form of music making and composing that developed alongside, and partly in opposition to, the postwar modernist tradition of composers such as Boulez, Berio, or Stockhausen. The experimentalist par excellence was J Michael Nyman's book is a first-hand account of experimental music from 1950 to 1970. First published in 1974, it has remained the classic text on a significant form of music making and composing that developed alongside, and partly in opposition to, the postwar modernist tradition of composers such as Boulez, Berio, or Stockhausen. The experimentalist par excellence was John Cage whose legendary 4' 33'' consists of four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence to be performed on any instrument. Such pieces have a conceptual rather than purely musical starting point and radically challenge conventional notions of the musical work. Nyman's book traces the revolutionary attitudes that were developed toward concepts of time, space, sound, and composer/performer responsibility. It was within the experimental tradition that the seeds of musical minimalism were sown and the book contains reference to the early works of Reich, Riley, Young, and Glass. This second edition contains a new Foreword, an updated discography, and a historical overview by the author.

30 review for Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    Even though it is only an illusion, but it seems that when John Cage walked into our room, the world has re-started in some fashion. Cage is the stone that was thrown into the pond, and future experimental music came from those little ripples from that rock. Michael Nyman, a great composer, by the way, wrote this book in 1974 at the height of Brian Eno's Obscure Records label, where he focused on the British wing of the musical avant-garde. Before Nyman's work with filmmaker Peter Greenaway, he Even though it is only an illusion, but it seems that when John Cage walked into our room, the world has re-started in some fashion. Cage is the stone that was thrown into the pond, and future experimental music came from those little ripples from that rock. Michael Nyman, a great composer, by the way, wrote this book in 1974 at the height of Brian Eno's Obscure Records label, where he focused on the British wing of the musical avant-garde. Before Nyman's work with filmmaker Peter Greenaway, he was acutely aware of the tradition of contemporary classical music and all its strange and beautiful routes it took through the later years of the 1940s to the publication date of this book. In such a fashion the book appears to be a classic textbook on its subject matter, and Nyman is very much the instructor in taking the reader from point A to point B, and so forth. Not one only gets the foundation of Cage, but also the works of Fluxus era composers up to the British talent such as Gavin Bryars, Christopher Hobbs, and the Scratch Orchestra, as well as the world of Terry Riley, LaMonte Young, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich. Illustrated with music scores and rare photos, this is a remarkable and essential piece of work regarding the world of the avant-garde sounds and its artists.

  2. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Flores

    Excelente, antes de cualquier cosa debo aclarar yo nunca he sido músico ni mucho menos, hago ruidos y trato de contar historias sin decir palabras, lo contrario que hago en los libros. Este libro me sirvió para ganar autoestima sobre lo que estaba haciendo, entender que mezclar escalas no estaba mal y podía arreglarmelas con mis manos chicas, y el parkinson. No es un manual para hacer música, pero si una forma distinta de entender el viaje musical. Quizás para los más estudiosos sea algo superfi Excelente, antes de cualquier cosa debo aclarar yo nunca he sido músico ni mucho menos, hago ruidos y trato de contar historias sin decir palabras, lo contrario que hago en los libros. Este libro me sirvió para ganar autoestima sobre lo que estaba haciendo, entender que mezclar escalas no estaba mal y podía arreglarmelas con mis manos chicas, y el parkinson. No es un manual para hacer música, pero si una forma distinta de entender el viaje musical. Quizás para los más estudiosos sea algo superficial, pero para un leso como yo, estuvo muy bien.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Glaucon

    "The Sybil with raving mouth utters solemn unadorned unlovely words, but she reaches over a thousand years with her voice because of the god in her." -Herodotus, Fragment 70 "[The opening bars of the last movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony] come as close as one could come, within the harmonic concepts of the day, to simple hysteria, and they work because they take the risk of degenerating. Today, a sense of risk is indispensable, because any simple piece fails when it becomes facile. This makes "The Sybil with raving mouth utters solemn unadorned unlovely words, but she reaches over a thousand years with her voice because of the god in her." -Herodotus, Fragment 70 "[The opening bars of the last movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony] come as close as one could come, within the harmonic concepts of the day, to simple hysteria, and they work because they take the risk of degenerating. Today, a sense of risk is indispensable, because any simple piece fails when it becomes facile. This makes for all the more challenge in risking facility, yet still remaining very simple, very concrete, very meaningful[..] The composer is perfectly well aware of the psychological difficulties which hi composition may produce for some, if not all of the audience. He therefore finds excitement in insisting on them, to the point of endangering himself psychically or even physically in his piece."- Dick Higgins, p 86 Upon my second reading of this I am impressed with the depth at which Michael Nyman goes into so many facets of the time's avant-garde. Now that I am much more familiar and fond of Nyman's own music, I can recognize that within writing this book he is also claiming his own lineage, recontextualizing the canon of classical music to include figures like Cage and La Monte Young and George Brecht. These are figures that are all too happily excluded by popular narratives of the western classical canon's progression, yet they have, as Nyman figured out contemporaneously, integral to the conception of composition that was to inform the rest of the twentieth century and onward. I think that the experimental composers of this book were able to reintroduce humor, if not new modes of emotional signification and evocation into sound and performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfT3n... This Gavin Bryars piece (introduced to me by Andrew Mckenzie of Hafler Trio in his interview with Tone Glow) makes me cry and I think is a great example of a melding of new and classical techniques. It also makes me weep like a willow in summer rain, aw shucks.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tentatively, Convenience

    I estimate that I read this bk in the fall of 1976. I must've read it before the spring of 1978 b/c by then I knew who Nyman was & eagerly attended a concert of his in London during that time. Alas, I found the concert quite boring - it was bland 'new tonality' minimalism. Oh well.. Nonetheless, this bk was the most important bk I'd read on the subject at the time & I was very inspired by it. It still sticks w/ me the way formative experiences do. I estimate that I read this bk in the fall of 1976. I must've read it before the spring of 1978 b/c by then I knew who Nyman was & eagerly attended a concert of his in London during that time. Alas, I found the concert quite boring - it was bland 'new tonality' minimalism. Oh well.. Nonetheless, this bk was the most important bk I'd read on the subject at the time & I was very inspired by it. It still sticks w/ me the way formative experiences do.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Parks

    Bought this book for 75¢ at a library sale in the 1980s. It sent me down a path. Nostalgia aside, it is still a pretty good book and holds up pretty well.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joao

    Michael Nyman oferece ao leitor uma visão bem informada sobre os primeiros tempos da música experimental, falando sobre alguns dos seus principais intervenientes, tanto ao nível da composição como da execução, como sejam John Cage, John Tilbury, etc., seguindo um roteiro das principais obras deste género musical, através da apresentação das suas partituras (?) e/ou da sua explicação/descrição. Contém também muitas fotografias, citações e uma discografia seleccionada (que, na minha opinião deve se Michael Nyman oferece ao leitor uma visão bem informada sobre os primeiros tempos da música experimental, falando sobre alguns dos seus principais intervenientes, tanto ao nível da composição como da execução, como sejam John Cage, John Tilbury, etc., seguindo um roteiro das principais obras deste género musical, através da apresentação das suas partituras (?) e/ou da sua explicação/descrição. Contém também muitas fotografias, citações e uma discografia seleccionada (que, na minha opinião deve ser usada criteriosamente, uma vez que se a execução de algumas destas obras entram no campo do sublime, outras nem fazem sentido, i.e., só valem como conceito - mas isto é uma crítica à parte, não ao livro). O livro é breve e deixa muito por dizer, mas acho que funciona como uma boa introdução a um tema com parca informação.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    I'm guessing that it was 1993 or so when I read this; whenever it was, it was a major turning point in the development of my thinking about music - my first encounter with so many of the great composers of the mid 20th century, and my first real immersion in the concept of "experimental music". Essential reading. I'm guessing that it was 1993 or so when I read this; whenever it was, it was a major turning point in the development of my thinking about music - my first encounter with so many of the great composers of the mid 20th century, and my first real immersion in the concept of "experimental music". Essential reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    dimwig

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. the music and moreso the ethos discussed herein blew my mind as a teenager & tbh in reading this and feldman recently i remember why - very liberating to decentre ego and completeness etc. probably my quibbles are also unchanged - why not just go full free improv? (as it happens, nyman was basically right to think that the movement had largely expired by the time he wrote the book, tho its influence is felt in disparate spheres of improv and ambient and some electronic music and also visual art the music and moreso the ethos discussed herein blew my mind as a teenager & tbh in reading this and feldman recently i remember why - very liberating to decentre ego and completeness etc. probably my quibbles are also unchanged - why not just go full free improv? (as it happens, nyman was basically right to think that the movement had largely expired by the time he wrote the book, tho its influence is felt in disparate spheres of improv and ambient and some electronic music and also visual art etc but less so in “classical” which has been more in the european tradition to my mind) good book

  9. 4 out of 5

    Intortetor

    una guida decisamente importante, sia perchè sono pochissimi i testi dedicati all'argomento sia perchè scritta da uno dei suoi protagonisti proprio nel momento e sia anche perchè scritta e pubblicata in un momento in cui quella musica stava decisamente cambiando e si trovava ad un punto fondamentale della sua storia. una pagina di storia della musica e in generale dell'arte dello scorso secolo. una guida decisamente importante, sia perchè sono pochissimi i testi dedicati all'argomento sia perchè scritta da uno dei suoi protagonisti proprio nel momento e sia anche perchè scritta e pubblicata in un momento in cui quella musica stava decisamente cambiando e si trovava ad un punto fondamentale della sua storia. una pagina di storia della musica e in generale dell'arte dello scorso secolo.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caeser Pink

    It was interesting to someone studying experimental music from the mid 20th century, as I am. I took the reader through a series of musical concepts and composer's work. The book is a bit abstract and technical. It reads like a text book. It misses a lot of the humor, social and cultural struggle, and sheer fun of the music and performance events presented by those composers. It was interesting to someone studying experimental music from the mid 20th century, as I am. I took the reader through a series of musical concepts and composer's work. The book is a bit abstract and technical. It reads like a text book. It misses a lot of the humor, social and cultural struggle, and sheer fun of the music and performance events presented by those composers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ola Loobeensky

    Cage, Cage i po Cage'u Kiedy oglądasz horror i słyszysz kwestię: "Czy na pewno nic nam się nie stanie?" (w domyśle: jeżeli wejdziemy do tego starego, samotnego domu w środku lasu), to najwyższy czas na zakrycie oczu. Istnieją kategorie stwierdzeń oraz momentów tak akuratnie pasujących do siebie nawzajem, że ich wspólna obecność nie nastręcza większych wątpliwości. Pojawi się jeden, nastąpi i drugi. Stąd moja niemal absolutna pewność, która narodziła się mniej-więcej w chwili rozpakowywania książk Cage, Cage i po Cage'u Kiedy oglądasz horror i słyszysz kwestię: "Czy na pewno nic nam się nie stanie?" (w domyśle: jeżeli wejdziemy do tego starego, samotnego domu w środku lasu), to najwyższy czas na zakrycie oczu. Istnieją kategorie stwierdzeń oraz momentów tak akuratnie pasujących do siebie nawzajem, że ich wspólna obecność nie nastręcza większych wątpliwości. Pojawi się jeden, nastąpi i drugi. Stąd moja niemal absolutna pewność, która narodziła się mniej-więcej w chwili rozpakowywania książki Nymana Muzyka eksperymentalna. Cage i po Cage'u, że autor polskiej przedmowy będzie zaraz zastanawiał się, w jakim celu wydawać spóźniony o 38 lat akademicki podręcznik z dziedziny muzykologii. I rzeczywiście! "Po co publikować w Polsce na początku XXI stulecia książkę, która opisuje zjawiska specyficzne dla środowiska anglosaskiej muzyki poważnej lat pięćdziesiątych, sześćdziesiątych i siedemdziesiątych?" – pisze już na wstępie Michał Mendyk. Świetne pytanie. Muzyka poważna – to już wiele. Muzyka poważna lat 50., 60. i 70. – jeszcze więcej. Eksperymentalna i awangardowa muzyka poważna lat 50., 60. i 70. – Boże drogi. Tymczasem nie ma się czego obawiać; wystarczy odrobina chęci i otwarta głowa (jak uczy Sagan, należy przy tym uważać, by nie wypadł mózg), aby zrobiło się bardzo, bardzo ciekawie. Nyman za cel postawił sobie wyłożenie wszystkich znanych mu różnic, oddzielających muzykę eksperymentalną od awangardowej, opisanie rozwoju tej muzyki i jej wpływu. Eksperymentalni są na przykład Cage, Brecht, Feldman, awangardowi – serialiści i punktualiści: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Boulez i inni. Eksperymentalizm daje znaczną wolność wykonawcy oraz dźwiękowi, pozwala zastanej rzeczywistości na kształtowanie dzieł, zadaje pytania o granice muzyki w ogóle, o jej początek, koniec, o to, co dzieje się ze słuchaczem; zbliża ją przy tym do performansu. Świetnym i zwykle znanym przykładem jest 4'33” Johna Cage'a. Reakcja na ten abstrakcyjny, filozoficzny utwór często zapowiada reakcję na całość sztuki współczesnej: "To chyba jakiś dowcip!" albo "To bardzo ciekawe!" Mniejsza o to, co powoduje takie, czy inne podejście; 4'33”, tak jak wszystkie kompozycje eksperymentalne, wymaga od nieprzygotowanego słuchacza naprawdę elastycznego umysłu. Bodaj najsłynniejszy utwór Cage'a składa się z trzech części, każda może zostać wykonana na dowolnym instrumencie; czas trwania również nie jest określony. Oprócz podziału istnieje tylko jedna zasada: muzyk ma zakaz wydobywania z instrumentu jakichkolwiek dźwięków. Według muzykologa Nymana 4'33” jest "manifestem niemożliwości ciszy", według nie mającego nic wspólnego z muzykologią internauty swiv2d-a i jego internetowej przeróbki fragmentu Der Untergang jest "kompletną porażką". Tak to bywa z eksperymentami, gdy nie chce się ich zrozumieć. I TACET II TACET III TACET Muzyka eksperymentalna nie kończy się na ustalaniu definicji. Nyman nie omieszkał przyjrzeć się wpływom eksperymentalizmu oraz jego rozwojowi, a potem reakcji na niego. Przez początki muzyki elektronicznej, Fluxus, aż do minimalizmu oraz ponownego zwrotu ku muzyce zdeterminowanej: "Doświadczywszy ciszy, możemy powrócić do starych dźwięków, tyle że, miejmy nadzieję, wstępując na nieco wyższy poziom." Rozpoczynając ten tekst cytowałam pytanie Michała Mendyka o sens polskiego wydania. Kisiła się we mnie nieśmiało bardzo prosta odpowiedź na nie: Muzykę eksperymentalną warto było tłumaczyć, bo prawie cztery dekady od daty pierwszego wydania niewielu ma w Polsce jakiekolwiek pojęcie o przedmiocie książki i nie mam w tym miejscu na myśli pana z obuwniczego, a ludzi zajmujących się muzyką i / lub kulturą w ogólności. „Obfitość adaptowanych przez młodych twórców praktyk eksperymentalnych nie wydaje się niestety współmierna do poziomu historycznej oraz estetycznej świadomości, a przypadku «błądzenia po omacku» i «wyważania otwartych drzwi» są raczej na porządku dziennym” – potwierdza moje przypuszczenia Pan Mendyk. Szkoda; szczęśliwie książka jest już dostępna i zapewniam, że nawet nie-muzykologowi może dostarczyć sporo rozrywki.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amari

    Dull. Academic in the worst way. A prime example of why I hate reading about music. Nyman appeals from the outset, and not very subtlely, to readers' sense of social egalitarianism and differentiates between so-called "experimental" music and so-called "avant-garde" music, implying that the former is superior because of experimental composers' ability to accept the sovereignty of all sounds, whether intentional or not. It's better to just read some John Cage and form one's own opinions of post-W Dull. Academic in the worst way. A prime example of why I hate reading about music. Nyman appeals from the outset, and not very subtlely, to readers' sense of social egalitarianism and differentiates between so-called "experimental" music and so-called "avant-garde" music, implying that the former is superior because of experimental composers' ability to accept the sovereignty of all sounds, whether intentional or not. It's better to just read some John Cage and form one's own opinions of post-WWII Western musics. I like almost all "kinds" and "types" and "genres" of music. But I'd rather listen to it and not suffer through Nyman's pontifications and sly, tiresome judgments. So I plan to skim through this book rather than read it per se. I'll give it this: the scores in the text are really lovely.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Read this with Christophe Cox and Dan Warner in 2001. Along with Jhn Cage's Silence and Morton Feldman's writing, it got me going down a totally different path than i could have imagined, in terms of both my listening and playing. I'm grateful to it for that, but honestly haven't returned to it since. Read this with Christophe Cox and Dan Warner in 2001. Along with Jhn Cage's Silence and Morton Feldman's writing, it got me going down a totally different path than i could have imagined, in terms of both my listening and playing. I'm grateful to it for that, but honestly haven't returned to it since.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Picard

    I didn't finish this book, but I continue to pick it up and read passages and put it down again. It was a great way for me to start thinking about experimental music and there were some interesting exercises/pieces outlined inside. I didn't finish this book, but I continue to pick it up and read passages and put it down again. It was a great way for me to start thinking about experimental music and there were some interesting exercises/pieces outlined inside.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This book was okay. I like a lot of the music related to the movements discussed. Some of the aleatoric musical games discussed were really cool. Overall though this was not a book that I felt driven to finish (though I did do so). I dunno, it just wasn't anything special. This book was okay. I like a lot of the music related to the movements discussed. Some of the aleatoric musical games discussed were really cool. Overall though this was not a book that I felt driven to finish (though I did do so). I dunno, it just wasn't anything special.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Patricio Amerena

  17. 5 out of 5

    John

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cash Dangerfield

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dave Trenkel

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paulina

  21. 4 out of 5

    Miguel Ángel Hernández Navarro

  22. 5 out of 5

    Russell Glasson

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gabriela Korwin - Piotrowska

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Evgenios K.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chris Meloche

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wim

  30. 4 out of 5

    Doug Holbrook

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