What is Mid-Valley Mutations?
Mid-Valley Mutations is an experimental radio music program hosted and mixed by Austin Rich and horridus. 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.
Together, Austin & horridus make up MKUltramegaphone, who 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 carried with narrative and story, too. There are some things like it, and much that is not. In short, Mid-Valley Mutations is experimental, and exactly the way we like it.
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 like that to a new listener. At one point in popular culture, “Experimental Music” was almost certainly going to be associated with harsh noise or atonal gibberish to the nubie, and at best, will be compared to Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. And while experimental music can be those things – absolutely – 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 idea in the 1920’s, but has become completely commonplace, an expected in the world of movies. There was a time when all instruments were new, all sound was as-yet unshaped, and all the earliest “musicians” had to experiment with music, 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, that yields surprising (and often compelling) results. This might be a “weird” rock band that has a psychedelic breakdown after the bridge, 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 the writing, and a left-of-center attitude toward the way we interact with our instruments in real space, Experimental Music begins to encompass more than 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 Mid-Valley Mutations will present 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 music in a random order played off of an iPod, Mid-Valley Mutations leads best through example. This program will not sound like your average radio program, but will take cues from Over The Edge and The Best Show, offering both music and media that is truly experimental.
But 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 likley love if you have a chance to hear it framed properly, and the goal of Mid Valley Mutations is to be that frame. Come with us, and wend your way through the stranger corners of history, and re-think how you listen to music.
Mid-Valley Mutations: Old Fashioned Radio, the way grandma used to make.