What would it take to sound “new”?


The first time I saw Trecartin’s Family Finds Entertainment, I was floored. Video art changed for me then.


neat. Reminds me a lot of the beginning of this track off Yeezus – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuUxY8Y7uXY

edit: went down the rabbit hole a bit – I guess Ye and Bon Iver worked together a lot on the album preceding Yeezus, so this isn’t very strange at all. ie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofaRvNOV4SI

edit 2: Bon Iver does vocals on the track I posted, smh. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hold_My_Liquor


Some pivotal early moments of newness –

New Noise by Refused – not just hardcore and arty and punk, but weird. Great video too.

Die Interimsliebenden by Einsturzende Neubauten was a huge one when I was in… 8th grade maybe?

Moth Eaten Deer Head by The Locust – probably the beginning of my love affair with synths?

more recently, the first time I heard Bipp and Hard by SOPHIE were pretty huge. Like obviously recognizable elements from a lot of things I’d heard before, but put together in such an interesting way.

First time hearing Emptyset was pretty eye opening as well.

Can’t think of anything super recently… Hmm.


I often find myself wishing I could go back in time to say when the Beatles were creating their work, or the first synthesized/electronic music was emerging, not just to be there at the time, but to hear it with that mind, with the mind of someone who had never heard music like that, of someone who has not been soaking in it for decades. Or to hear The Rite of Spring at its premiere, but with those ears, in that context, rather than after-the-fact.

Does anyone know of cultural theorists or historians or such who are engaging with the idea of the effect of vast amounts of recorded media from multiple cultural eras being available to us, and how that might change what we’re collectively producing? It’s not that eras before pre-recorded media did not also have an awareness of history and periods of retro fashion (the 70s are back, as in the 1770s in 1830?) but it’s so much more accessible now.

I feel like there’s a … reflexivity in how we engage with cultural lineage now. Like it’s more about looking backwards than forwards. Not sure, still feeling this out. But it seems odd that we can so viscerally participate in the art of an era (tune into any classic rock station, you are immediately ‘out of time’), but we can’t connect in the same way to the being in that historical moment. We can’t feel what was new about it at the time, even if we intellectually understand it.

This video is satirical but it seems somehow relevant:


Brainiac is 200% the best and were responsible, along with Shudder To Think, of Absolutely Blowing My Young Mind To Smithereens in 1995.


I think we might be confusing nostalgia for what may or may not be actually happening


Well, that’s the point I was trying to make. How do we separate nostalgia and perhaps young/innocent lack of context with what is profoundly (and more broadly) ‘new’ and impactful?

Related to something @baleen said earlier also, I think ‘new’ can mean different things to different people. For example, I’m always trying to ‘experiment’ and find ‘new’ sounds/processes/whatever. But only within my own personal experience. I’m not quite romantic enough to believe I’m actually contributing something new in the global picture, and do we ever really know as the big picture ‘new’ is happening? It takes a bit of time to recognize what may be ‘new’ in that sense.


By “new” I have associations of something unpredictable or unanticipated. Surprise can be one of the most rewarding things a listener may feel. This is especially relevant for recontextualising established sounds.

One recent-ish album that comes to mind is Equiknoxx’s Bird Sound Power. As far as I’m aware they weren’t necessarily setting out to break new ground. Instrumental approaches to dancehall are certainly not new. In some ways they were just simplifying what was already there in dancehall music, what they felt comfortable with, combining this with their own sample palette. I recall well my surprise at the first track that I heard. In some ways it was recognisable and familiar but a sound uniquely theirs.


and/or that we have somehow moved on to a new era of history and need to blaze some trails. (my opinion is we haven’t and and still doing so even if it doesn’t feel that way)


I like the ‘Twelve Principles Upon Which 12k Was Founded’ on the 12k label website.

Number 8 comes to mind:

8. Never try to innovate, be true to yourself, and innovation may happen.


Call me old-fashioned but Autechre sounds new to me, every single time. Maybe it does take a few impenetrable works (Oversteps, L-Event, Exai) and the risk of alienating your own listeners, before on the other side of the exploration something fruitful, and above all beautiful, comes out (Elseq, NTS)


It’s two topics really, right?

  1. What is music that sounded new to you in your experience, that opened up your mind to what might be possible? Which is a lot of what we’re talking about here.
  2. What were or are genuinely new developments in musical practice or vocabulary? Which seem a lot rarer.

Two arguably new threads that come to mind for me are

  1. the ~350 year project of the development of tonality in European art music, that sort of began roughly with Monteverdi (though there was historical context there) and more or less terminated with Webern (though obviously there were further developments that derived in reaction to where 12 tone theory ended up).
  2. ‘Sample’-based music, beginning maybe with tape music experiments and proceeding to hip hop, today’s landscape, etc.

I’m sure there are many others; there are a lot of traditions I don’t know anything about. Also, broad brushstrokes, tread carefully, etc.


True, point. Quotation is much older than tape, and borrowing/appropriation is as old as humans. I guess I’m specifically talking of the usage of “actual” sound. Granted, this wouldn’t have been possible until recorded media existed, but that’s sort of what we’re discussing, right? :slight_smile: I think it’s valid that technological advances might enable artistic ones.

Also, yeah there’s a minefield of interpretation, points of view, power dynamics of appropriation, who writes history, etc etc. This is complicated.


I’m sure there are other things but the one that really jumps out at me right now would be SND: Atavism. This was the first I’d heard of these guys and definitely sounded pretty new to my ears.

I think the question itself is quite subjective though; my ‘explorations’ these days tend to be a bit broader that traditional ‘Western’ music, but what’s new to me - say Tal National as a good example of this - is often part of a popular tradition I’m just unaware of.


I mean, in 1992 The Boredoms opening for Sonic Youth absolutely blew my mind, so much so that I followed the tour a four hour drive to their next stop so I could see them again. But I’m not sure they were exactly doing new things, so much as new to me at that time.


I can speak pretty authoritatively about the first. Can’t claim to be omniscient about the second. There may be some overlap in the Venn diagram, however. The La Bouef Brothers, I mentioned above, are broadly speaking playing jazz. Perhaps nothing new about that. But their arrangements sounded new to me in a way that suggested perhaps there was something more generally new about the music beyond my subjective perception. Or is that just another subjective impression?


Popping in from vacation to say 14yo me also had my brain melted at this (pittsburgh show)


this is another pretty good example


There have been innumarable sonic ‘first times’ throughout my life.

But the most recent one, and perhaps the most profound, was the detection (and recording) of gravitational waves. Now THAT blew my mind.


some genuinely new developments in (western pop and electronic) music recently and then I’ll stop being grumpy and let you all have your fun xD

  • the shift in most popular medium to present music in from vinyl to CD to digital streaming allowing for markedly different approaches to album form
  • the loudness war prompting ingenious advances in compression and arrangement to present pop music as loudly as possible
  • the “end” of the loudness war and the rise of the headphone-and-playlist listener putting introspective, even taciturn pop songs arguably ahead of early 2010s-era “bangers”—e.g., wordless choruses (even the, gasp, Chainsmokers do this), spare-as-in-quiet production
  • the bedroom-produced album
  • the FFT, paulstretch, convolution (reverb), “spectral” composition techniques and, like, sound techniques inspired by the creation of open-ended music software like Max, pd, supercollider and even Ableton to a certain extent
  • AutoTune
  • genre blurring, “mumble” rap, chillwave, dubstep (okay, maybe these are dated by this point), modular-as-genre