I guess my idea of an available Thursday night never quite aligned with the Series' idea of an available Thursday night. But all was reconciled with one set from Monkey C, "the obliteration of gamelan as we know it," and another set from the Walsh Set Trio, "dedicated to exploring improvisation through contemporary classical music, jazz, and noise making." Showing up at these things has now been upgraded to capital-P Priority. Since I should be at pretty much every one, drinking a Boddington's, come say hello.
On the surface, the claim that "most people don't get experimental music" rings at the center of the triangle connection obviousness, posturing and irrelevance. But this tired argument is completely refreshed by yanking out the "get" meaning "understand the content of" and subbing in the "get" meaning "understand the appeal of." Take heed, experimental music-loathers: it's not that us enthusiasts possess (or believe ourselves to possess) some higher discernment that allows us to draw infinitely more pleasure from the same sound waves you can't stand. It's that we enjoy the culture surrounding it.
Or at least I do; it's the one live music "scene" whose adherents don't irk me in some distinctive way. The experimental crowd lacks the pious immortal-worship of jazz fandom, the dried-out shushery of the classical set or the pro forma disenchantment/enchantment of young rockdom, replacing it with a relaxed yet eager openmindedness. Or openearedness. Whatever. The point is that they're willing to listen seriously and see what sort of an art experience results, pretty much no matter what.
This leads me down an interesting line of thought. What if art isn't about works, necessarily, but about the culture that surrounds them? What if art is a social tool, an expedient to locate and enter into desired cultures? On some level, of course I enjoy listening to the actual sounds produced by an electric guitar'd gamelan ensemble or a bass clarinet improvisation. But on another, perhaps more important one, I enjoy existing in the culture where that sort of thing goes on.
Though it's most identifiable in music, I have no reason to believe this phenomenon is limited to music. It seems almost as important to me in visual art and film. I don't think it coincidental that these are the same domains of art where a lot of friends part ways. In fact, I'm prepared to submit that the more a type of art is also the host or signal of a culture, the more people will disagree about its worth.
I happen to have had a string of conversations in recent weeks about a related issue: what separates those for whom art is what's pretty versus those for whom art is what's interesting? No answers like "Duh, one's a philistine" are acceptable; I'm aiming more toward how one's preferred art reveals the way one thinks. It seems obvious to me to go toward the art that's more interesting (or gives rise to a more interesting surrounding culture), whether or not it qualifies as "pretty" — but it seems equally obvious to others to go toward the art that's prettier, whether or not it qualifies as "interesting."
For the art=pretties, as I'll call them, is art a means to a culture? Is it something else? If so, what? I'd be drawn to a James Benning film, a Christian Bök reading or concert of Iannis Xenakis music for the work itself, sure, but also for the culture formed by the attendees and the emergent artist-audience dynamic (which tends to require no small engagement on the audience's part). Do those attending a show of pastoral landscapes, The English Patient or a Mantovani revival feel the same way, or do they not?
Lacking any solid answers, I remain open to suggestions. I do come away with a hypothesis I'm jonesin' to test, though: I figure that a good gauge of a foreign city, or in any case a good entrée into that city, is to pay a visit to its experimental music scene immediately. It'll probably be glad to have you, it'll know some interesting things nowhere else will and it'll play you sounds worth hearing. This seems appropriate, given how much time I've lately been spending scoping out airfares to various non-Santa Barbara locales. Osaka? $878. Lisbon? $796. Halifax? $780. Seoul? $856. Reykjavik? $914. Mexico City? $236. I swear, I could do this all day.