30 July 2007

"Outsider" Music

The term Outsider Art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for Art Brut (which literally translates as "Raw Art" or "Rough Art"), a term created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; but Dubuffet focused particularly on art by insane asylum inmates.

Outsider music is a form of outsider art.

The term Outsider Music was arguably coined by journalist, music historian and WFMU DJ Irwin Chusid.

Outsider music is music performed either by social outcasts, who have no or few associates in the mainstream music business, or by musicians who choose to live and work in seclusion, often due to compromising behavioral or psychological conditions.

Outsider music reflects these conditions in various ways. Lyrics are often always bizarre or emotionally stark and songs may show a great ignorance or disregard for structural conventions or popular trends in mainstream music.

Outsider musicians also frequently have no formal training and/or significant music skills in the traditional sense. The end result is music that is much stranger and more abrasive than more popular musical styles.

I didn’t realise it had a name or classification but I already love it all. I quickly realised lots of amazing stuff falls under this umbrella; stuff I’m already into but never thought to thread it altogether.

It’s perfect; like a junk drawer of wild music, none of it sounds alike, the only thing stringing it altogether is the fact that it all completely defies categorization. It’s not blues or avant-garde or alternative or anything, it’s just fucked up, weird, insanely unique and therefore brilliant.

By definition, outsider music has very few outlets and most outsider musicians (save those such as Syd Barrett and Skip Spence who became popular before becoming recluses) come to be known through word of mouth, usually among communities of music collectors.

I’d say Daniel Johnston is a good poster boy for “outsider music”, enough people know his deal to equate what the rest of the “genre” must be about.

Only a few “outsider musicians” have achieved much renown outside of a small group of devotees - Tiny Tim and Wesley Willis are decent examples. Outsider music is frequently praised by more well-known musicians with experimental leanings, dudes like John Zorn, or Sonic Youth or for instance, Kurt Cobain. Cobain was photographed many times wearing a t-shirt with Daniel Johnston’s album cover on it; Cobain was a big fan of Johnston and the way most people learned of him. Tragically or perfectly depending on how you feel about it, a random mention or reference in a sidebar may be the only real form of publicity these outside artists ever receive.

Here's some required "outsider music" listening. This is all stuff I own and I enjoy. I wouldn't steer you wrong, IF you think you'd be into some "weird" shit...

This is easily the most wonderful and disturbing CD I own. It was recorded in a school gymnasium in the mid-70's by the music teacher of a school in British Columbia. The students got to pick their favourite pop songs of the time and this genius music teacher gave them each harmonies and parts to sing using ingenious methods created by Carl Orff (the German composer who did "O Fortuna" most notably) and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, the most haunted genius of our time. The result is 60 kids pensively singing choir versions of Bowie, the Beach Boys and more. Its fucking bizarre and beautiful, it sounds ethereal and the kids' shyness comes off sounding like the most sincere thing ever put to tape. Check it out if you have a few bucks to spare.

All Hail Raymond Scott. This is arguably the first electronic music EVER recorded, EVER! Scott started out as a jazz and classical composer. Somewhere along the way he got bored with what was out there and started building his own instruments with crude computers and whatever the fuck was around in the late 50's and early 60's. These were top-secret creations he'd use to create ambient sounding commercial jingles, as well as the odd soundtrack with then budding filmmaker/Muppeteer Jim Henson. My favourite track is "Limbo: The Organized Mind", its so eerie and bizarre and perfect. If you're into Aphex Twin and shit like that, this is the Godfather. A must for fans of electronic music.

Syd Barret. Dude started Pink Floyd and then went crazy and recorded some of the best shit ever. Just his name is legendary and will score you 10 points during any music conversation so find out why!

The ultimate punk: Jandek. No one even knew his real name or what the fuck this dude looked like for about 20 years! Only a handful of people claim to have even contacted Jandek, whose steadfast anonymity is legendary and truly rebellious. He plays awkward folk/blues Texas style. A dude who obviously plays music for the music and because he HAS to play and could give a fuck about anyone giving him praise for it. Amazing.

Daniel Johnston: The alpha and omega of "outsider music". A childish Bob Dylan. John Lennon stuck in arrested development. Heartbreakingly beautiful stuff. Filde Under: ESSENTIAL.

OK, that's all the help I'm gonna give. Go find the rest yourself. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great overview. Reminded me of...




Keep em comin'....Thank you