Experimental guitar is a genre that emerged in the late 20th century and continues to evolve today. It pushes the boundaries of traditional guitar playing by incorporating unconventional techniques, effects, and approaches to sound creation. This genre challenges conventional notions of melody, rhythm, and structure, resulting in unique and often abstract compositions.
The origins of experimental guitar can be traced back to the mid-20th century with artists like John Cage and Pierre Schaeffer who explored new possibilities in music composition and sound manipulation. However, it was during the 1960s and 1970s that experimental guitar gained significant recognition with the rise of avant-garde movements such as free improvisation and minimalism.
Key characteristics of experimental guitar include extended techniques such as prepared guitar (altering the instrument's strings or body), feedback manipulation, bowing or scraping the strings with various objects, and using unconventional playing methods. The genre also embraces electronic effects pedals, loop stations, tape manipulation, and other technologies to create innovative sounds.
One influential artist associated with experimental guitar is Fred Frith. His album "Guitar Solos" released in 1974 showcased his virtuosic skills while incorporating unconventional techniques like using a violin bow on his electric guitar strings. Another notable figure is Glenn Branca who experimented with large ensembles of electric guitars creating dense layers of sound in compositions like "The Ascension" released in 1981.
As time progressed, experimental guitar continued to evolve with artists like Sonic Youth pushing its boundaries further. Their album "Daydream Nation" released in 1988 combined noise rock elements with alternative tunings and dissonant chords creating a distinctive sonic landscape.
In recent years, artists like Mary Halvorson have made significant contributions to the genre through their unique approach to improvisation and use of effects pedals. Her album "Meltframe" released in 2015 showcases her technical prowess while exploring intricate melodies within an experimental framework.