If you ever ask people in Santiago or Valparaíso what their favorite kind of music is, "experimental music" isn't a typical answer. Actually, many might find it hard to define or say they’ve ever heard it.
Photo courtesy Marcelo Maira
But a conglomeration of experimental musicians by the name of Proyecto Tárabust is set to enlighten their fellow Chileans on this emerging music genre with concerts, workshops and lectures.
Proyecto Tárabust became a solid music movement in December of last year, born when its director Marcelo Maira collaborated with a Mexican project called Huey Mecatl as a director, musician and producer. Encouraged by its success, Maira and other experimental musicians extended the project’s reach by creating Proyecto Tárabust, a permanent organization that brings musicians together to develop and present their unknown art.
The collaboration that started it all included the construction of a giant harp, made up of 10 rectangular shipping containers, which created a circle of music around the spectators. It also allowed the experimental musicians to see each other, which is crucial for the improvisation throughout the performance.
The word "Tarabust," a philosophical concept introduced by French philosopher Pascal Quigard, is the moment previous to thinking, previous to the emission of an idea or of movement. For Maira, he says, Tarabust is the state of conscience necessary for improvising freely in music.
By referring to the dual meaning of the verb “to play,” Maira says that improvisation, a vital component of experimental music, is about playing with sound. Improvisation--producing sound spontaneously rather than following a musical script--requires total concentration and homogeny from and between the musicians involved. Throughout the show the musicians use eye contact and musically tuned ears to create an improvised symphony, uncommon yet easy to listen to.
Since experimental music is fundamentally unpredictable and unscripted, definitions of this spontaneous style range as widely as the music itself. “For me, experimental music is what the word means: experimental, experiment, experimenting," explains Maira. "I think it is the possibility to do any of these exercises with sound.” Since improvisation produces an infinitely wide range of results, what you might hear at such a performance will undoubtedly be something you’d never experienced in conventional music.
Young university students, working adults and homemakers alike took their lunch breaks to attend the group's latest event, a series of free Friday afternoon concerts in Valparaíso. Musicians produced sounds by using instruments in unconventional ways, like running a drum sick across the radius of an 18-inch cymbal instead of banging it like a traditional drummer, or hitting the strings of a contrabass with a small hammer. In some concerts, psychedelic black-and-white images of geometric shapes projected on a screen behind the musicians created a physical and visual experience. While helping the audience take the sounds in visually, the images formed a theatrical space for the whole performance.
Though experimental music isn't part of Chile's musical mainstream, Proyecto Tárabust has received a positive response, due to the musicians' dedication to what they do, their performance, and to the simple fact that they do not attempt to change or disguise pure sound, Maira says. The numbers agree, with 1,500 people turning up for the Huey Mecatl event in Valparaíso in December.
As to what the future holds for Proyecto Tárabust and experimental music, Maira says with confidence that because experimental music is “an art that comes from the bottom of the soul” that creates strong emotional responses in its listeners, it will naturally be received well.
So do not fear if you have yet to experience this creative expression of sound. Proyecto Tárabust will continue to bring experimental and improvised music to the ears of willing listeners. All you need is an open mind and the tolerance to receive whatever these daring musicians might throw at you.