A girlfriend once said to me “Experimental music? That’s a stupid name for it. Isn’t all music an experiment? What does ‘experimental music’ even mean?”
We broke up.
Taking advantage of a holiday, I got to turn on, tune in, and drop out as M.C. Schmidt and Obie Feldi worked something out live at Uzumaki, a weekly experimental music event at Fadensonnen.
A key move when attending is to get there on time. The second-story room is small and will fill up. I suspected folks on first dates about to be surprised, mid-Chachi’s chicken and wine pairing, by what was about to be unleashed.
Nah. At set time, everyone in the room stopped talking and turned attentively to check out the sonic goings-on. There are many of us, “standing room only” many of us in fact, wanting and willing to check this out.
A statement was made before the duo began. To paraphrase…
You may not like or enjoy this. But… here we go. Let’s find out.
Growing up, my music teacher mom was very tolerant of the sounds blaring out of my basement lair.
One time, she asked me why I listen to what can be called (a bit reductively) noise music. Also, why did I keep doing those horrible things to those thrift store guitars?
I said that all music is sound and Noise musicians push on that vocabulary. What these folks are doing today will be Top 40 radio in the future. A world in which the first twenty seconds of “Magic Carpet Ride” is the whole song, and people dig on it! I wanted to push on those boundaries also, as often as I could, in my own creative process.
My mom understood. She began explaining to her friends that I was a “Noise artist”, and that racket I was making in the basement with that poor, poor guitar was part of that.
When I ran into the duo a few nights later, they asked me “Did you like the set?”
Yes! Yes I did.
The first thing you had to leave at the door that night was words as units of meaning. Words are also units of sound. The duo read different texts with overlapping names and similar themes but not tied together explicitly. Then, in more or less unison, phrases that had no clear meaning but sounded a certain way together were spoken. While this happens, your word-brain slowly melts and then heads in a different direction, like when you refuse to give up on Finnegan’s Wake and keep reading. Damn the torpedoes! Slam the tuxedoes! Wait… what does that mean? Never mind. Keep going.
And that’s just two channels. There were four speakers going throughout the set. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to get caught up in the swirl of a four-pointed sonic vortex, no idea where I was going, being delighted by the confusion created in my sound-mind.
After the set, the crowd’s applause was genuine, as was mine.
Where will M.C. Schmidt and Obie Feldi go from here? Was the experiment a success? I don’t know. They may not know either. In any case, I will be there to find out what’s next on any given Sunday at the next Uzumaki.