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Anything written by Morton Feldman between 1980 and his death. Long pieces of chamber music, often literally hours long, constructed from slowly floating patterns of quiet chords. Unlike anything else, and hypnotically beautiful. All of his late works have been recorded, gorgeously performed and engineered, mostly on the Swiss HatArt label.
radiohead's recent stuff (kid a, amnesiac) is pretty original. Also, Sigur Ros (Icelandic group, just kids really) is non-derivative. That's just as far as rock goes, which I think is what you're asking. But if you get into more experimental stuff... try Bernard Gunther or Kim Cascone - I guarantee you've never heard anything like their work.
It could be argued that there is no such thing as music that is not derivative. I guess Derek Bailey, Edgar Varese, and most Anthony Braxton recordings might come close. Not sure you would want to listen to them much. Alot of great stuff is challenging, innovative and derivitave, (like Gentle Giant, Roxy Music or some Radiohead). Checking out Terje Rypdal, Uwe Koprinski, Squarepusher, Lucas Niggli(Zoom), X-Legged Sally, Sonny Sharrock (Sieze the Rainbow), Massacre (w/Fred Frith), Octavo, Steve Tibbets, Allan Holdsworth, Jean Derome, Eberhard Weber, David Torn or Egberto Gismonti might fire up some under used neurons.
I think it's all basically derivative, but that doesn't deter my enjoyment one bit. I think there are more excellent practitioners today than any time before, and I enjoy what they produce despite it being derivative.
As with many terms we use, derivative can by used as a descriptor or as an (implied) insult.
I'd be curious to look back in 100 or 200 years and see if history sees the Beatles and/or the 60's as being non-derivative.
I think Kthomas is right. The Beatles weren't even that original. Lots of groups did the same things, they got the recognition. It's all in the marketing. I get the feeling most of the best and original music will never be recorded or heard by the public at large. Most people don't like or want change.
As long as people are using the same instruments they will be making the same basic music. How many variations can there be to one theme? This is one of the reasons I prefer music that incorporates instruments not typically associated with that genre.
We could certainly stand some originality in music today. There are too many Eminems to every Mozart!!!
One can be derivative yet original. Early Chicago is clearly rock/jazz, but the complexities of orchestrations and arrangements were highly original, but vey derivative.
Agreed that early Beatles weren't original (straight forward rock-n-roll), but several of their later works after they went "studio band", like Sgt Pepper's and the White Album left nearly everyone in the music biz with jaws dropped. Another of the more well-known groups that were extremely original was Yes, especially with Rick Wakeman on board.
I tend to agree with Kthomas and Nrchy music by it's very nature is derivative-no disrespect to those who mentioned Radiohead and Sigur Ros both bands I like but neither are really original at all in the wider sense.
To confuse the discussion every artist is to some extent original,the great bands,the innovators,tend to take the past,add something of themselves and sometimes capture something of the spirit of the times (the Zeitgeist as the Germans would say)they live in.
Ultimately who cares?
Enjoy what you enjoy.
Yes, Gentle Giant. Also my favorite punk band from back then was the Stranglers. If you listen through the noise; buried inside are real melodies and quite substantial music structure. Someone in that band must have gone to the Royal College of Music and studied counterpoint and composition.
Most pop music is basically in Sonata form.
I'm more than sure that beatles is somewhat derivative of Bill Heiley, Elvis Presley,...
Frank Zappa can be considered as a complex derivative of higher than first order from different bands often humiliating them with his genious musical way giving an extra-ordinary colour to the jazz and rock.
Gentle Giant is not the first-order but still can be considered as a derivative to Genesis and so is Van Der Graaf Generator. The first-order derivative of Genesis we can consider Marillion.
If you consider King Crimson than Robert Fripp is not only a leader of that band but a talented mathematician and there is a whole line of "Larks..." created further on as a true multiple order derivatives of the original "Larks Tongues In Aspic" composition. I'm still checking this hypothesis and more believe that it's true.
An abstract music can be presented as a very large-order derivative of hell-knows what:
David Byrne working with Robert Fripp or Bryan Eno started to take a high-order derivatives I assume from his previous Talking Heads works giving some unrealistic abstractions.
I'm sure that Pink Floyd is derived somehow, but it was a band of my youth rather than I'm too much into it right now.
Monsieur Jacques Loussier brought the hypothesis that jazz was derived from J.S.Bach and figured why not playing original instead of derived in the classic jazz trio.
Very often the high orderds of derivatives we accept as an original and somwhere we could be right about that since if you compare already the sixth order derivative with original less-likely you would see the connection between.
Hummm....Every music is derivative. Nothing bad about that. In fact, it's a good thing. You stand on someone's shoulders...you can see further. I'm not one to say there is nothing new under the sun but there is nothing completely new. Are you going to create a new scale or something? Even Coltrane had his debts. Shakespeare read Ben Johnson and the Bible.... In undergraduate school we had a discussion group we named "de novo ex nihilo", roughly translated "the new from nothing."
Looking back at it.... what a ridicules conceit!
I agree with the premise that others have posed that music builds upon its predecessors and so can be deamed 'derivative'. Furthermore I'd suggest musicians from the 20th century onwards are at a disadvantage because they, generally, have released their performances on widely available media and so the performances can be considered 'preemptive'. Also the format of current music in 3-4 minute chunks is such that it may not replayed by others unless it's in the forum of future 'folk' music.
Having said all that a couple of musicians that come to mind as potentially transitional are Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and in the more mainstream I think one could squeeze in the Beatles. Most of the rest (even though I listen and enjoy it) I consider "contempory" and as such will die a quiet death in time.
Aren't I in a happy mood !
Very intersting discussions all around. If you read my original post, I never said that the Beatles were non derivative, although I do believe their later work was far enough removed from anything that had been done before to consider it original. Particularly Abbey Road. Plus it has spawned several generations of bands that have continued music in the same vein.
That being said, some of the people I had in mind?
Kraftwerk. Noone had ever done anything like what they had. So many now draw from what they started.
Grandmaster Flash. He single handedly started the whole hip hop movement. Well maybe he had some help. Or a ot of it.
The Velvet Underground.
The Jesus and Mary Chain. This is derivative to some extent, but they definitely put a different twist to beach boys melodies with massive use of feedback.
Those are some of the people I consider to be fairly original. I do agree it is impossible to be entirely original if you use a guitar, bass, drms, etc. But some of these artists pioneered the use of alternate forms of sound, ie turntables, feedback, all electronic music, etc...
Jposs, I think you didn't shoot well on Kraftwerk...
Everything in synth business probably starts from Jean Michell Gare the former leader of synth band Space.
As I said before that if you take a derivative of the higher than third order(please recall the school math for Christ sake) you might not distinguish a derivative from the original function!
Let me begin from Classical music that in fact also has lots of directions and generations.
At the same time when the classical music existed there were Mazurkas Waltzes and Tangos popular for parties back than.
Than there were influence of a black rhythms and music that influenced to create blues, fox-trot and later-on swing.
Than the rock-n-roll took over blues, fox-trot and swing as a derivative of previousely stated.
Than The Beatles created pop that is derivative of everything stated above.
Derivative we can scientifically define as an operand that decreases a degree of a function but if the derivatives are taken on multiple-order the function could be still complicated and hard to understand from the first sight.