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Examples of "outsider art" in music?
#3000077 07/07/20 11:48 PM
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"Outsider Art" is the label for art created by artists who are either self-taught or had little to no contact with mainstream artistic expression during their time of production. Their works are usually unrecognized for a period of time, perhaps even after the death of the artist. Are there any famous works or composers that can fit this definition?

For me a possible example is Charles Ives, who most definitely had a formal musical education in music but displayed very little of it in his most radical works. In fact his professors at Yale actively discouraged him from developing his bizarre ideas of tonality, forcing him to write in the European Romantic style of the time which resulted in his Symphony No.1.

Therefore his very early and highly revolutionary works, such as Central Park in the Dark (1906) and The Unanswered Question (1908) were composed under no influence of any mainstream styles or ideas of the time. Schoenberg would not write his groundbreaking Theory of Harmony until 1910 and it wasn't until 1913 that Stravinsky premiered his Rite of Spring.

In any case, are there any other "outside artists" that have achieved recognition in the classical music world?

Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3000086 07/08/20 12:06 AM
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Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3000126 07/08/20 05:08 AM
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Prokofiev followed the established path, but he was still very much an outsider musically.

Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
johnstaf #3000322 07/08/20 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Prokofiev followed the established path, but he was still very much an outsider musically.

At least until he was forced to write in a proper socialist style.

Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3001278 07/10/20 07:17 PM
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William Billings? The only one I've heard of, possibly.

It doesn't seem likely that someone could write longer form music without being aware of examples. If we ignore one or another of OP's points, then Frank Zappa, Moondog and John Cage.

Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
the nosy ape #3001285 07/10/20 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by the nosy ape
At least until he was forced to write in a proper socialist style.

Is that where each note is the same pitch, same volume, same length, and same timbre?

I compose quite a lot of pieces like that. I'll post one up if you want.

Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3002174 07/13/20 01:30 PM
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I should have added George Gershwin, though his long form stuff was heard immediately and sold widely. But he was and still is an "outsider".

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achoo42 #3002195 07/13/20 02:13 PM
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Last edited by KlinkKlonk; 07/13/20 02:13 PM.
Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3002362 07/14/20 12:58 AM
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Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3002516 07/14/20 02:32 PM
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Rubinstein playing O Polichinelo by Villa-Lobos:

https://youtu.be/uYeU1VEgV-Q


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Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3002523 07/14/20 03:01 PM
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Nobody mentioned Borodin yet? He never had a formal education in music; he was foremost a scientist.
But I have to admit that I am not too familiar with his music. I know a few measures from Prince Igor; but apart from that, Russian romantics are not exactly my samovar, eh, cup of tea.


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Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
patH #3002611 07/14/20 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by patH
Nobody mentioned Borodin yet? He never had a formal education in music; he was foremost a scientist.
But I have to admit that I am not too familiar with his music. I know a few measures from Prince Igor; but apart from that, Russian romantics are not exactly my samovar, eh, cup of tea.
You haven't heard his "In the Steppes of Central Asia" and Symphony No.2?

It's arresting from the start, with a distinctly Russian main theme:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zt9iodbJqLA

He also wrote a splendid Petite Suite for piano, again full of Russian nostalgia:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgt1WWKOI1E

....and this delightful Scherzo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3mkuLjAEqg


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3002678 07/14/20 10:20 PM
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I think Mussorgsky was a bit of an outsider, although his music is very "accessible".

Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3002745 07/15/20 05:35 AM
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Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
achoo42 #3003094 07/15/20 05:35 PM
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These may not be exact fits for the definition given by the OP, but they still seem "outsider" in some way to me -

Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners (aka Lord Berners)

Harry Partch

Galina Ustvolskaya

Blind Tom

Giacinto Scelsi

Nikos Skalkottas

Abel Decaux

Julius Eastman

Liszt did something unusual - he turned into an outsider composer towards the end of his life, after a long career as an "insider".

Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
wr #3003522 07/17/20 12:38 AM
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Originally Posted by wr
These may not be exact fits for the definition given by the OP, but they still seem "outsider" in some way to me -

Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners (aka Lord Berners)

Harry Partch

Galina Ustvolskaya

Blind Tom

Giacinto Scelsi

Nikos Skalkottas

Abel Decaux

Julius Eastman

Liszt did something unusual - he turned into an outsider composer towards the end of his life, after a long career as an "insider".

Many of these I would agree with, especially Julius Eastman. There was and still is little tradition of classical music in the African American community, let alone political minimalistic classical music.

Liszt is a great case of someone who started to just do their "own thing" with little or no outside influence, perhaps to the surprise or the chagrin of his fellow insiders. Others that would fit the Liszt idea would include Scriabin, Szymanowski, Ornstein, and perhaps even Monteverdi.

Last edited by achoo42; 07/17/20 12:39 AM.
Re: Examples of "outsider art" in music?
johnstaf #3003868 07/18/20 05:49 AM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
I think Mussorgsky was a bit of an outsider, although his music is very "accessible".
Mussorgsky definitely saw himself as an outsider. He was such a fascinating figure, probably the most original of the Russian five. He is often compared to the great Russian painter Ilya Repin in his "realism"- he never sought to "correct" the irregularities of folk melodies, for example, and his songs deal with unexpected themes, usually not considered subjects for "art". “The artistic presentment of beauty alone is sheer childishness," he said. "To trace the finer characteristics of human nature and the mass of mankind- that is the mission of the artist." "Life, wherever it is shown; truth, however bitter; speaking out boldly, frankly, point-blank to men- that is my aim.”

Listen, for example, to his wonderful set, "The Nursery", where he asks the singer to sing like a child. Nanny screams at Misha: "Oh you naughty boy! You've tangled my wool and messed up my needles. (...) Go into the corner! Into the corner!". In tears, Misha pleads, "I didn't do anything, Nanny dear. I never touched your sock, Nanny dear. It was the kitten who tangled up your wool." But when she offers him no pity, he immediately changes tone: "Nanny is wicked and old, Nanny has a dirty nose. Nanny has upset Misha and put him in the corner for no reason at all. Misha won't love his nanny anymore, so there!"

In "Darling Savishna", written in 5/4 time, a beggar pours out his love to a beautiful woman. The raw desperation in the song is unusual and refreshing. "Darling Savishna, my bright falcon, love me, witless as I am. Love me, for all my ugliness. Come, caress this lonely fellow! I love you more than I can say."

Or listen to his comic masterpiece, "The Seminarist", written to his own text. A young seminary student dutifully chants latin nouns, an exercise that seminary students were regularly put through. But his thoughts keep wandering towards the priest's daughter, her rosy cheeks, her sensual eyes, her breast like that of a swan that swells under her shirt. He immediately catches himself and chats on: Fastis, axis, funis, ensis, fustis, vestis, vermis, mensis…(Ah, Styosha, my Stoyosha, how I would kiss you and embrace you!) Postis, follis, cucumis, atque, pollis, atque pollis, cucumis, cucumis. The student reads part of the Scriptures but peeps at Styosha at the choir stall and gives her a wink. His master sees it and blesses him three times on the ear, continuing to beat the Latin lessons into his head with a stick. Orbis, amnis, et canalis, et canalis, sanguis, unguis, et canalis, et canalis…

The Russian Orthodox Church censor banned the song from being circulated or printed in Russia.


Last edited by Ainar; 07/18/20 05:58 AM.

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