Black MIDI and Taylor Swift – the newest postmodern masterworks?

There is an amazing musical form I recently discovered called “black MIDI.” It is the polar opposite of 4’33”, but if you take John Cage seriously, this stuff is worth at least knowing about in the context of experimental, or even postmodern music.

Here is an example:

Black MIDI used the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) technical standard to create compositions with a huge amount of notes. The name refers to the solid black block of notes that fill the music sheet in standard notation. Those who compose black MIDI tracks are referred to as “blackers.”

The point of the style seems to be to push the limits of the software up to but not past the breaking point. This work would not be conceivable without modern technology. It would also be impossible for a human to play on an actual keyboard. It is essentially non-performable in exactly the opposite way that 4’33” is pure performance.

I feel like I should also Mention Taylor Swift’s “Track 3” in the context of John Cage and postmodernism. It is 3 (or 8 depending on the source) seconds of white noise that sold for $1.29 on iTunes. It was put up by mistake and then withdrawn, but not before it became the number 1 downloaded song on iTunes for a while in Canada.

What’s interesting to me about this story is that it’s an honest to goodness postmodern work of art. If you look at it one way, it is the first experimental noise piece to chart. Looked at another way, it is an accidental masterpiece.

I like to think of this work as the opposite of a great photograph done by an anonymous artist. In photography, anyone has the potential to accidentally create a work of art without knowing what they are doing. Taylor Swift on the other hand, because of her fame, can accidentally create noise and it becomes a huge success most of us can’t even dream of achieving. She uses fame itself as the medium to create this work, and she does it unwittingly.

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