Today’s post is a guest piece by my son, Chase Lynn (photo above). As mellifluous carols fill the air this season, I stumbled across a genre of music not found on my any of my playlists – ‘Glitch Music’. A style inspired by mistakes. I had never heard of it, but my son, who is a guru of esoteric music styles, was not only familiar with it, but a fan. As an early holiday present he penned the following…
“Music… ‘a sound perceived as pleasingly harmonious.’ That’s the dictionary definition and for the most part that definition works just fine. With time we are exposed to new music which, whether we like the song or not, can be recognised as music by its rhythm and tonality. But sometimes a song is made particularly memorable from its use of other sounds; parts which could not possibly have been ‘composed’. Some songs sample a film or television show, in others you can hear birds or other ambient noises in the background. Just as easily, a song can become memorable from a mistake; a mistake that the artist decided to keep in, or was perhaps simply overlooked.
Growing up, I found myself becoming increasingly interested in listening to those parts of music, to the point that today my itunes library is filled with minimalist drones, unedited nature recordings, and harsh noise that makes people ask if my speakers are broken. But nothing is broken when I listen to Merzbow, his ‘music’ is entirely intentional. However, I cannot say the same for all the music I listen to.
Miles Davis once told us to not fear mistakes, as there are none. Sure enough listening to his records one can hear the occasional note which seems suspiciously out of time and/or key. These mistakes are not damaging but instead entertain or even intrigue the listener. And where error might add charm in some cases, it can create purpose in others. In 2001, ambient composer William Basinski was creating digital format version of old reel to reel tape loops he had recorded years ago. However, the magnetic tape had physically deteriorated to the point that the loop was slowly being destroyed, reducing the music in both quality and substance as the process went on. By trying to make back-ups of previous work, he instead created a haunting tribute to fragility and decay.
William Basinski is not the first musician to hear beauty in accident though. In fact, there is a whole sub-culture obsessed by the idea. ‘Glitch’ musicians create songs either from or inspired by broken and malfunctioning equipment. Scratched records, skipping CDs, or poorly rewired toys and gadgets are common instruments in the genre. I personally have used the sound of a broken amplifier in my own music. Yes, the result is often described as noise, but the point is not to dance or sing along to it. It’s an exploration of sound, an experiment in music production, and an observation of just what music can be. Because sometimes we need a break from over-produced 4/4 major scales, and sometimes that break comes from something broken.”