The Sun Ra Arkestra Performing Shadow World in a Concert in West Berlin

This video presents one of the most important free jazz groups ever: the Sun Ra Arkestra. They are playin a concert in West Berlin and performing the song Shadow World. It is not clear when this concert was recorded but the black and white pictures suggest it was in the late 1960s when german television still recorded and transmitted in black and white.
Sun Ra was always regarded as an excentric musician and many people have no access to this kind of music, they even say it is no music at all or that all musicians are fake, that they can’t play their instruments. However, this is not true. All musicians in the Sun Ra Arkestra were excellent on their instrument but just had no wish to play in the well known mainstream, repeating standard tunes and performing what everybody could accept. It is a fact that such great jazz musicians as John Coltrane took a couple of saxophone playing lessons from the sax player who appears in this video, John Gilmore might be his name, leave a comment if you know better.
The band was really avantgarde, watch that at the end they even come up with some rap – in the late sixties !

Saxophone Robot Performs Giant Steps Solo by John Coltrane

Watch this video here with a saxophone robot playing John Coltrane’s famous solo over his bebop tune Giant Steps. The song is in up tempo bu you might feel that this solo could be played a little bit faster. Well, there is another version of Giant Steps at a higher speed, 350 bpm to be exact.
Some people say that this solo sounds cold and unpersonal. While this can be admitted it is still amazing that a machine can actually play a saxophone and with a high grade of accuracy. This is not simply a synthesizer or a computer’s sound card that synthetically imitates the sound of a certain music instrument, instead it is a machine that produces an air stream which is directed into the mouthpiece of a tenor saxophone while some artificial hands move the keys of the instrument.
You might want to listen to Giant Steps with John Coltrane’s original sound from the Blue Note record Blue Train on the soundtrack while a computer generated video animation shows the melody written out as sheet music in real time.
Of course there is a difference in interpretation and John Coltrane sounds as human as a musican can sound. We like this video because it helps to illustrate the point of slight tempo variations throughout the performance of a song. This sould be considered by all the ‘musicians’ who insist on the objectivity of a metronomes pulse. Yes, it is true that some sheet music indicates a certain number for the beats per minute the piece should be performed with. However, the japanese robot does exactly this while in real musicians’ interpretations there might be slight variations of the speed. Of course we don’t want to encourage the musicians to play ‘easy’ parts with the indicated speed and slow down during the ‘difficult’ parts, but we want to encourage the performers to put their personal style into an interpretation and that this style should be ruled by the sense of balance and freedom.
We don’t think that this robot qualifies as a suggestion for our poll about the greatest tenor saxophone player ever heard, but it´s up to you to decide now..

Electronic Music Band Tangerine Dream Performing Kiew Mission

This video clip presents the german electronic rock band Tangerine Dream with Edgar Froese, Chris Franke and Johannes Schmoelling performing Kiew Mission which is the opening track from their LP Exit. This album was released in the early 1980s and illustrates the band’s concept. It is interesting to know that Tangerine Dream was a very experimental group in the sense that they always did improvise their concerts, so the same tune never sounded the same. Of course, there is always a well defined theme and mood in each of the pieces.
Tangerine Dream is stil active in the entertainment business and the band’s latest album is called The Five Atomic Seasons. It is a musical journey accomanying Mr. H. T. to an old Zen Monastery where he is getting introduced to the secrets of life and death. Tangerine Dream has been releasing several new albums in the last years and they are DVDs rather than CDs (Let’s forget the LPs belonging to another epoche of entertainment.)
Tangerine Dream’s Bandleader is Edgar Froese who has been experimenting with electronic sounds since the 1970s. The band has always used synthesizers and belongs together with Can to the first generation of german rock groups in the electronic music field while people like Karlheinz Stockhausen had been experimenting with electronic sounds since the synthesizer appeared in the music instrument stores. However, Stockhausen is ‘serious’ composer, he has studied composition on the conservatory. We have posted about him in this blog, see the video clip with his composition Kontakte.

The Chemical Brothers play Surface to Air – Pop Style Experimental Music

This is a music video with the electronic music of the Chemical Brothers who are performing their song Surface to Air. Electronic music is a term with different concepts associated to it: basically we refer to electronic music as modern concert music in the academic style but also to a rapidly increasing number of pop music bands and pieces.
In the beginning of the electronic music era, the sounds were produced experimentally and by huge machines. Karheinz Stockhausen was one of the first composers who experimented with electronically produced sounds, which weren’t necessarily sounds produced by synthesizers. Different composition methods were used to enrich the classical techniques. One possibility was to cut parts of recorded music (which could be conventional music) and rearrange the pieces of tape into arbitrary orders, obtaining surprising result which were not always wellcome by the audiences. Some portions of the tapes even were put together reversed, sounding from the end to the beginning. Nowadays this can be achieved through a simply clic in almost any modern music composition compute software.
On the other hand, at the beginning of electronic music it seemed to be interesting just to obtain naturally sounding synthesized instruments. Music instruments included sound banks with synthesized violins, guitars, trumpets and all the other conventional instruments. And some of the synthesized voices sounded and still sound great, perfectly imitating the original instruments’ sounds.
The development of electronics has made it possible to pack a whole symphony orchestra into a portable keyboard. The resulting type of synthesizers with sound banks of this kind would have been a nice thing to have for the classical composers like Bach or Mozart and the rest and allow modern academic composers to compose with the voices of the different orchestra sections.
We wouldn’t call the corresponding music experimental music which involves new sounds beyond the traditional material for composers. Here enter new methods and techniques for synthesis and assembling, for example the approach of the greek architect and composer Ianis Xenakis who invented an instrument which could be used to transform drawings into music, to mention just one example of new composition techniques.
Then, electronic music became a part of the progessive rock music bands’ repertoire. It was popularized by bands like Pink Floyd and many others who integrated sound effects into their songs, or by bands and artists like Tangerine Dream or Mike Oldfield, for example, who performed music based almost completely on synthesizers. The Chemical Brothers followed this direction and became popular more than 20 years after the first bands introduced electronic compositions, many of them using serial composition methods.
We are aware that this is only a rough introduction to electronic music and we invite you to use the tag cloud and categories of this blog to learn more about this kind of music. You might also want to visit a page about experimental music with examples of new invented music instruments and other experimental approaches.
To finish this article we just want to mention that experimental music hasn’t necessarily to do with electronic music, there are other possibilities, for example transforming objects well known from our usual environment into musical artifacts. Keep looking around and listen to as much different kinds of music as possible, not everything will mean a pleasure to you but some extra-academic and modern compositions will be of interest for you.