Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, was fed up. He did not want his creative expression to be controlled by his record company any more. And so, after fufilling his contract with Interscope records, he split off to record on his own. The first project he undertook, called Ghosts, was 10 weeks of exploration into creating sound tracks to the environment and world around him. He, and several collaborators, would start with some sort of visual reference, whether it be a place, setting, or situation, and then translate it into ambient music. The pieces were created using improvisation and experimentation. For several songs, a guest drummer used a makeshift drum kit of a few 50 gallon drums and a cookie sheet to create his rhythums. Some are upbeat and quick, some slow and heavy, and some are eerie. Each piece flows into the next, for a long, coherent two-disk experience.
Each piece was also accompinied by a photograph from a visual artist (like the one above). By looking at the picture while listening to the music, one is forced to interpret the world in an abstract audial sense. There is no one singing over these pieces to tell you what to think or feel; they instead create an environment to exist in.
This is a big switch for an artist who, until then, was under a record label that made him conform to their profitable standards. The first part of this album was released for free, and their was no limit on his creative freedom. He was able to unpack the world around him, taking it from the literal, visual existence that we usually only experience, into a more abstract aural experience.
Furthermore, Nine Inch Nails held a fan film festival where it actually encouraged its fans to use the songs to create their own music videos. This might have been a cop out so that they didn't have to spend the money to create their own, but there was some create work submitted. The fans were forced to interpret music not through the lyrics that were being shouted (as is usual), but instead through the images the beats provoked. Below is a fan video to one of my favorite songs.