What is Mid-Valley Mutations?
Mid-Valley Mutations is an experimental radio music program hosted and mixed by Austin Rich. It is the most recent iteration of a show Austin’s been hosting since 1998, going by different names and carried on different stations in the nearly 20 years since his first broadcast. Austin’s influences are equal parts Gary Owens, Firesign Theater & Don Joyce, presenting music, samples, academic research and loud guitars into a pastiche he calls “Audio Essays,” where these elements blend in an orchestrated form to present radio that is as experimental as the music that is supporting it.
Austin is also Mini-Mutations, who occasionally provide audio commentary and live performances atop the programming for the show. While “songs” are certainly a part of the program, and you will hear plenty of it when you tune in, we are re-mixing, cutting and pasting, and quite often, playing live music overtop what you are hearing. The results are both funny and serious, surprising and intentional, ambient and punk rock, and filled with narrative and story, too. There are some things like it (think Over The Edge, Puzzling Evidence / Hour of Slack, and Do or DIY), and, inevitably, much that is not. In short, Mid-Valley Mutations is experimental, and is exactly the way we like it.
Okay, so let’s roll it back even further. What is do you mean by, “Experimental”?
While the descriptor “Experimental Music” often carries a bad rap among popular music fans, this misapprehension stems from exposure to a particularly difficult roommate in college, or walking past a club to catch 10 seconds of something out of context. Inevitably, early exposure to anything experimental can sound “bad” to a new listener. “Experimental Music” is often associated with harsh noise or atonal gibberish among some circles, and at best, Experimental Albums might be compared to Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. And while this music can be those things – absolutely, at any time – it is also much, much more.
It is all too trite these days to point to Pop Music examples of where it has intersected with experimental sounds, and people from Kanye all the way back to The Beach Boys have come out as being in favor of getting “weird” in the studio. But even the idea of using music to score film was a radical notion in the 1920’s, and has become completely commonplace in the modern world, and even expected every time we go to the movies. There was a time when all musical instruments were new, all sound was as-yet unshaped, and all the earliest “musicians” had to experiment with music, just to find out what is could and could not be.
Experimental Music, put simply, is any music that approaches performance and composition in an atypical way, where these atypical tendencies yield surprising (and often compelling) results. This might be a “weird” rock band that has a psychedelic breakdown after the bridge in their songs, or it might be electronic music compositions brewed entirely out of home-built gear. It can be ethereal, passionate, beautiful or ugly. Different composers almost take a Dogma approach to the matter, adding strict rules or guidelines to how the music is created. When music begins to apply the same kinds of art-school philosophy to its creation and development, and add to it a left-of-center attitude toward the way we interact with our instruments in real space, then Experimental Music begins to encompass more than merely the sounds of gears grinding for 15 minutes. (Though, again, it can also be that, too.)
Using produced segments, mash-up techniques, interviews and performances by live guests, and anything else that comes to mind, Mid-Valley Mutations presents listeners with a guided tour of the curious universe of music that is just outside what you normally hear on your radio dial. Not merely presenting songs in a random order from an iPod, Mid-Valley Mutations leads best through example. This program will not sound like your average radio program, but will take cues from both Over The Edge and The Best Show, offering both music and media that is truly experimental, and a reflection of the various ways “experimental” art surfaces in our world.
Our hope is not to scare anyone away by being too difficult, or to make them feel like an outsider in a world of strange and crazy music. Rather, we want to offer a welcoming look at art that is rarely present on the public airwaves, and give the people of the Mid-Valley a place where they can let their freak flag fly, in whatever way they can. There is a wide world of experimental music that you will most likely love if you have a chance to hear it framed properly, and the goal of Mid Valley Mutations is to be that frame for those with New Ears and Big Ears alike. Come with us, and wend your way through the stranger corners of sound history, and re-think how you listen to music.
Mid-Valley Mutations: Old Fashioned Radio, the way grandma used to make.