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Thread: Impossible music: Nancarrow, Zappa, Sir Millard Mulch... ?

  1. #1

    Impossible music: Nancarrow, Zappa, Sir Millard Mulch... ?

    Specifically:
    Conlon Nancarrow's studio for player piano
    Frank Zappa's synclavier music
    Sir Millard Mulch MIDI music
    ...???

    (I acknowledge that some "impossible" music has eventually been played by groups like Ensemble Modern - not sure what else to call it.) I'm surprised how little of this kind of music I can find. György Ligeti and the like made electronic music with some weird rhythms, but it doesn't really have any connection to playable instruments or notation-like composition - it seems more "randomized" for lack of a better term. Black MIDI (not the band) is impossible in a sense, but it's mostly just 4/4 music with a lot of dense clusters and fast runs added. As much as I like Aphex Twin and Venetian Snares (https://youtu.be/tbLt0S0W5jE), they're pretty much on a relatively simple grid. Even Sir Millard Mulch is more on the grid than what I'm wanting most of the time (I can't find much online, but this is kind of an example: https://youtu.be/XS9SMfGZdK4). Animusic is too much on the grid as well.

    What I'm wanting has been mostly made on player piano rolls and Synclavier/MIDI. Know of any other devices doing that kind of thing like an orchestrion, etc.?

    I'm wanting simultaneous crazy complex rhythms... even simultaneous different meters... or tempos... or no tempo (like Reagan At Bitburg: https://youtu.be/Id2dCFfAqoE). Doesn't matter if it's acoustic like a player paino or electronic MIDI. But I want a cohesion to exist - all the instruments lining up and playing complex rhythms together sometimes. There is often an element of pointillism (Amnerika: https://youtu.be/v7msf3Fv06Q) and a degree of humor, briefly quoting normal styles, etc.

    Sometimes minimalism gets close - like Steve Reich's Pendulum Music. But this is even closer!: https://youtu.be/1yllSpcGm94 Also, Trey Spruance's cycle music like Perichoresis fit with multiple simultaneous patterns: https://youtu.be/TUNEv_RjCk0 It's kind of prog, but taken to the furthest rhythmic complexities beyond what humans are typically capable of. Mats/Morgan gets close sometimes: https://youtu.be/di9xaUBKY5I The Science Group is close: https://youtu.be/p7TegdkB5Oc Heck, Indian ragas and gamelan are close .... but those all still have structure that is easier to pick up on than something like this: https://youtu.be/YqsmG8yK8Q0 (which is exactly the kind of thing I'm wanting more of)

    There is an obscure piece for percussion ensemble called "Octet" by J. David Morris (start around 4:45 https://youtu.be/Ums3F4uRrSY) that is close, and some of Harry Partch's music (start around 5:13 https://youtu.be/n24mcbjbfrU) is close.

    This obscure artist sometimes fits: https://soundcloud.com/atrophicmusic
    And like this: https://shnabubula.bandcamp.com/trac...ltar-chozo-one
    And this (Zach Hill / Hella): https://youtu.be/jdMDcG3zAEI
    And this (MOTHER 3 soundtrack): https://youtu.be/xgDK1z95NtQ
    And this (Mark Fell ‎– Multistability): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHIGHpWKcw0
    And this (Spastic Ink): https://youtu.be/yTQUfSfXjoE

    This is exactly what I'm looking for!: https://soundcloud.com/frun0bulax/higgins

    I wanted to hear this music so much, I wrote some myself through the years. I'm personally very proud of it, but I realize that people don't like it and dismiss it quickly for whatever reasons. If interested: https://disproof.bandcamp.com/album/...e-of-an-insect

    Does anyone else know of other similar music? (even though I mentioned Steve Reich, percussion ensembles, Indian ragas, gamelan, etc. as "close but not quite" - feel free to recommend similar things like other minimalist examples, world music, etc. - I might not have heard of them)

    Edit: I keep adding examples as I remember them.
    Last edited by ergalthema; 2 Days Ago at 11:05 AM.

  2. #2
    Check out Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer: Repetitive Selective Removal Of One Protecting Group.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Rick L. View Post
    Check out Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer: Repetitive Selective Removal Of One Protecting Group.
    Cool! I hadn't heard that. I definitely like it. It's a bit more loose, jazzy, abstract, and musique concrète than what I'm looking for, but I'll be adding this to my collection soon. Thanks!

  4. #4
    KrimsonCat MissKittysMom's Avatar
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    You might try Alfred Schnittke, who was known for polystylistic works. "The goal of my life is to unify serious music and light music, even if I break my neck in doing so." Concerto Grosso No. 1, second and third string quartets, Moz-Art à la Haydn.

    Bartok loved polytonality and polyrhythms. Try the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion.
    I think the subtext is rapidly becoming text.

  5. #5
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    I'm not a fan of this sort of "music" since it is incredibly easy to write random collections of notes but incredibly hard to play them, and in my experience incredibly hard to listen to because there's no "human element" to hang my hat on.

    That said -- depending on your definition -- there is a ton of it out there.

    Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music."
    Borbetomagus.
    Iannis Xenakis's percussion music.
    Stomu Yamashta's pure percussion music.
    Lots of 1950's "computer music" (Milton Babbitt? Not sure)
    Douglas Leedy "Entropical Paradise."
    Steve Reich.
    Lots of skronk jazz.
    Lots of piano prodigies like Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji.

    For Orchestrion, check out Pat Metheny's two releases under that name -- not really randomized but very busy.
    Last edited by rcarlberg; 4 Weeks Ago at 08:59 PM.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    depending on your definition -- there is a ton of it out there..
    It's hard to define, but there definitely isn't a ton of it out there. Everything you listed is pretty far off from what I described in my post.

  7. #7
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    There's a lot of avant-garde player piano stuff -- okay, maybe not "a lot" but Nancarrow isn't the only one out there. There are also pieces in different time signatures that only intersect every 720 bars or something.

    But I'm having a hard time coming up with any names because I avoid this stuff like the plague.

    Charles Ives wrote some pieces with two orchestras simultaneously playing different music.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    There's a lot of avant-garde player piano stuff -- okay, maybe not "a lot" but Nancarrow isn't the only one out there. There are also pieces in different time signatures that only intersect every 720 bars or something.

    But I'm having a hard time coming up with any names because I avoid this stuff like the plague.
    So you're just posting to say you don't like it, basically?

  9. #9
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Yeah, basically. Good luck on your quest.

  10. #10
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    You know, listening to your own stuff you posted on Bandcamp, let me make another suggestion:
    https://rsteviemoore.bandcamp.com/al...-radio-copy-vg

  11. #11
    I do love some RSM, but I don't really consider it tight and highly-complex.

  12. #12
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Fair enough. Although "tight" seems like a bit of an odd description for something with, in your own words, "simultaneous crazy complex rhythms... even simultaneous different meters... or tempos... or no tempo..."

    Like I said, good luck in your quest. You seem to be chasing unicorns. Invisible pink unicorns, to be exact.

  13. #13
    Jazzbo manqué Mister Triscuits's Avatar
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    Maybe you'd be interested in the "New Complexity" composers like Brian Ferneyhough and Michael Finnissy?


  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Fair enough. Although "tight" seems like a bit of an odd description for something with, in your own words, "simultaneous crazy complex rhythms... even simultaneous different meters... or tempos... or no tempo..."

    Like I said, good luck in your quest. You seem to be chasing unicorns. Invisible pink unicorns, to be exact.
    I posted quite a few examples (and I keep adding more to my original post), and I think the tight structure should be obvious. It's kind of prog, but taken to the furthest rhythmic complexities beyond what humans are typically capable of.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Triscuits View Post
    Maybe you'd be interested in the "New Complexity" composers like Brian Ferneyhough and Michael Finnissy?
    I was just made aware of that recently, and it seems like it should fit the bill. However, when I listen to the result, it sounds random like it could be improvised. I'm wanting some repetition and obvious structure.

  15. #15
    I also thought of Brian Ferneyhough, but more so of Ben Johnston. The 7th String quartet is amazingly difficult with its micro-mocro-micro tonaliites.



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    I'm not lazy. I just work so fast I'm always done.

  16. #16
    oh boy you will LOVE The Foul Tempered Clavier by Rascal Reporters, particularly the Cymbalist tracks: https://rascalreporters.bandcamp.com...mpered-clavier

    I believe the tracks by Steve Kretzmer on this one are mostly played by hand, but Steve Gore's tracks lean heavily into sequencer based music with live drumming and some extra performed overdubs.

    If you particularly enjoy the sequencer based stuff, the follow up to Foul Tempered may also be up your street, The Mind Boggles. This album is almost entirely helmed by Steve Gore, so is heavy on the sequencer use! https://rascalreporters.bandcamp.com...e-mind-boggles

  17. #17
    Boo! walt's Avatar
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    Joseph Hammer-Roadless Travel is the cd.Tape manipulation/looping is the process used.

    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

  18. #18
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick L. View Post
    Check out Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer: Repetitive Selective Removal Of One Protecting Group.
    Awesome album and great pick. Desert island disc due to the sheer density of ideas, textures, colors, etc. Super creative guy.
    If it isn't Krautrock, it's krap.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post
    I also thought of Brian Ferneyhough, but more so of Ben Johnston. The 7th String quartet is amazingly difficult with its micro-mocro-micro tonaliites.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/a...-required.html
    Quote Originally Posted by auxfnx View Post
    oh boy you will LOVE The Foul Tempered Clavier by Rascal Reporters, particularly the Cymbalist tracks: https://rascalreporters.bandcamp.com...mpered-clavier

    I believe the tracks by Steve Kretzmer on this one are mostly played by hand, but Steve Gore's tracks lean heavily into sequencer based music with live drumming and some extra performed overdubs.

    If you particularly enjoy the sequencer based stuff, the follow up to Foul Tempered may also be up your street, The Mind Boggles. This album is almost entirely helmed by Steve Gore, so is heavy on the sequencer use! https://rascalreporters.bandcamp.com...e-mind-boggles
    Quote Originally Posted by walt View Post
    Joseph Hammer-Roadless Travel is the cd.Tape manipulation/looping is the process used.
    All very interesting music, and I truly like it. However, it's much more simple (or slow and loose-sounding) than what I'm after. The "classical" stuff sounds too freeform. I have been following Rascal Reporters for a while, but I can pretty much instantly determine the time signature as soon as the music starts. I want to be overwhelmed with fast, highly-structured simultaneous patterns.

    Again, I like all the suggestions, and it has introduced me to excellent new music. I don't want to sound critical of it. I just want to try to figure out how to explain what I'm looking for.

  20. #20
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Check out Ligeti's Etudes Books I and II if you have never heard those. Amazing compositions, ultra rhythmic, advanced harmonies, crazy hemiolas, no bullshit...just amazing music. I'm not sure they are "impossible" but certainly not for beginning pianists. Search out Pierre Laurent Aimard's recording (Sony; incomplete) and Thomas Hell (on Wergo; complete all Three Books). Here is a quick bite of No. 13 (L'escalier du diable / The Devil’s Staircase):

    If it isn't Krautrock, it's krap.

  21. #21
    Brian Eno has a technique called "Skysaw Guitar", which was used on the track of that name and also on "Red Sails" (from Bowie's Lodger album) - basically, have the same guitarist record solos in the low, middle, and high ranges of the guitar, then swap maniacally between the three of them, to produce a solo that no single guitarist should be able to play.

    Phil Manzanera (who played on "Skysaw") was shocked by a teenage guitarist who asked him, "I've figured out most of the solo, but how did you play this one bit?"
    Maka ki ecela tehani yanke lo!

  22. #22
    I want to be overwhelmed with fast, highly-structured simultaneous patterns.

    Again, I like all the suggestions, and it has introduced me to excellent new music. I don't want to sound critical of it. I just want to try to figure out how to explain what I'm looking for.
    So, not necessarily impossible music per se, but more rhythmic and tempo driving the music. Sounds good. I will consider...



    I'm not lazy. I just work so fast I'm always done.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Check out Ligeti's Etudes Books I and II if you have never heard those. Amazing compositions, ultra rhythmic, advanced harmonies, crazy hemiolas, no bullshit...just amazing music. I'm not sure they are "impossible" but certainly not for beginning pianists. Search out Pierre Laurent Aimard's recording (Sony; incomplete) and Thomas Hell (on Wergo; complete all Three Books). Here is a quick bite of No. 13 (L'escalier du diable / The Devil’s Staircase):

    Close, but I want multiple instruments playing similarly complicated music at the same time, but related and occasionally matching up, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sturgeon's Lawyer View Post
    Brian Eno has a technique called "Skysaw Guitar", which was used on the track of that name and also on "Red Sails" (from Bowie's Lodger album) - basically, have the same guitarist record solos in the low, middle, and high ranges of the guitar, then swap maniacally between the three of them, to produce a solo that no single guitarist should be able to play.

    Phil Manzanera (who played on "Skysaw") was shocked by a teenage guitarist who asked him, "I've figured out most of the solo, but how did you play this one bit?"
    Interesting, but not really what I'm looking for.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post
    So, not necessarily impossible music per se, but more rhythmic and tempo driving the music. Sounds good. I will consider...

    I'd prefer it to be essentially impossible. Like, Ensemble Modern pulled off some of the Nancarrow studies and Zappa pieces, but there aren't many more examples played by humans. Hella comes close - I can't really figure out what time signatures they're playing it's so chaotic - but it's tightly controlled and played together.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post
    I addressed black MIDI in my original post - besides having a lot of clustered notes and possibly being fast, it's all pretty simple 4/4, 16th notes, etc. Again, I'd like different time signatures being played at the same time - that kind of thing.

  24. #24
    Even though it may not quite tick all the boxes, I thought Astroid Power Up may at least interest you. Surprising rhythms.


  25. #25
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post

    Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music."
    I remember reading Lou Reed said he hadn't heard the thing whole through himself ...

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