Music at School


Experimental Music

The value of experimental music

Year 9 students this term have been studying the experimental music of the 20th century, and in particular the music of John Cage like this performance of 4’33”:

A performance would normally be made up of organised sounds. These sounds are referred to as crotchets or minims, “A” or C sharp”, loud or quiet. In 4’33” the sounds are less organised and what we normally refer to as “ambient” or “background” sounds become the very sounds of the performance.

What is the value of such music (if it can even be described as “music”)?


The use of Cells is a popular musical composing technique for minimalist composers (as well as some experimental composers). The idea is that instead of using bars, composers use cells. These cells are repeated throughout a piece of music to create different textures, melodies and rhythms. The most famous piece of music that uses cells is called “In C” by Terry Riley. In this piece Riley uses a number of cells and instructs the performers to repeat them as many times as they want to before moving on to the next cell

Here is a performance of “In C”


Experimental Music

Experimental music is a term introduced by the American composer John Cage in 1955. He tried to defined it as “an experimental action where the outcome of which is unforeseen”. It is music that the composer or performer doesn’t know what the result of the composition will be.

In a more general sense, it is music that challenges the commonly accepted notions of what music is.

 More about Experimental Music Here

Musique Concréte

Musique Concréte is a term that is often used to describe the process of taking real world sounds and making them “musical”. Traditionally, music begins as an abstract thought either on paper of through another medium, which is later on turned into music. The aim of musique concrète is different, in that it strives to begin with the sounds, experiment with them, and turn them into musical compositions. So, the starting point for traditional music is seperate from the sound. Musique concréte is the oppostie.

When: late 1940s and 1950s

How: helped by developments in technology, particularly microphones and tape recorder.

Who: Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgard Varèse

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