Because music really has no definite limits other than being “sound arranged over time,” some music makers have decided to run with this definition and stray from conventional music structures and timbres.
And the result can end up being painfully confusing, sonically jarring or strangely pleasant. In many cases, it can be all three.
Although unconventional songs sometimes feel like a test to our patience or ears, oftentimes they offer unique emotional motifs not found in other music.
For example, not many music genres convey sadness, depression, misanthropy or terrestrial consciousness as well as black metal’s grinding, shrieking, hopeless aesthetics. Sure, it might be difficult to accept the stark abrasiveness or unsavory politics of its pioneering bands like Darkthrone or a more polished stylistic derivative like Wolves in the Throne Room, but sometimes the journey is worth the destination if you’re looking for a certain abstract place.
However, experimental music is not limited, as it rarely is, to the caustic extremes of lo-fi Scandinavian metal.
Other brash genres like hardcore punk, noise rock and experimental hip-hop frequently explore visceral concepts like chaos, anger and, a lot of the time, hate, which is a sentiment hardly brought up outside of breakup tunes.
Furthemore, some non-traditional acts in the above styles translate these emotions less through the framework of a particular genre and more around the context of abrasive textures and constant noisiness such as Big Black, Clipping, Fugazi, Death Grips and, in the most extreme case, Merzbow (By the way, Pitchfork rated that Merzbow album of basically manipulated white noise an 8.7, not to say that I particularly agree with that).
Furthermore, musical experimentation is also not exclusive to the independent, obscure or avant-garde.
Many popular artists have released challenging songs that test listeners in their determination and intellect in figuring out the work’s significance. Compositions like The Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9,” The Velvet Underground’s “European Son” and Animal Collective’s “Brother Sport” all ask listeners to suspend their notion of how a song should play out and allow tape loops, feedback and noises of all sorts to build up to a fruition unparalleled by verse-chorus-verse structure.
With all that being said, I must concede that there is a line where some unconventional music becomes pretty much inaccessible. Yet, it’s hard to pinpoint that line since everyone has a subjective tolerance of what can be considered pleasant, redeeming or, conversely, headache-inducing.
What’s ultimately important is that if you keep an open mind, decipher patterns and themes and try to figure out what the artist had in mind, you might find yourself entranced by something you thought you could never like.
It’s happened to me a bunch, and I’m thankful to have added a few artists to my repertoire, even if some of them are not on Spotify.
Luke Furman is a sophomore studying journalism and a reporter for The Post. Do you listen to any of the artists he mentioned? Tweet him @LukeFurmanOU or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.