You know you are on the edge of musical knowledge when a bagpipe made out of a plastic bag and a cheap whistle is not the most unusual instrument in the room.

Violins with beads instead of strings, a horn made out of a plastic bottle studded with gromets, and an electrical soundbox made from an old tin of plasters are just some of the highlights of Tony Conrad's Invented Acoustical Tools, which form the backbone of this new Inverleith House exhibition, pitched somewhere on the wild frontier between contemporary art and contemporary music.

It has been roughly 50 years since the radical American artist, best known for his avant-garde film work, made his first public forays into the world of experimental music. Conrad calls it a quest for "pure sensory disruption", an aesthetic based on the use of the drone sound since his debut with New York's short-lived group The Theatre Of Eternal Music (1962-63), comprised of early Minimalist composer La Monte Young and peers including Angus MacLise, Marian Zazeela and The Velvet Underground's John Cale.

"They really were heavily experimental, part of the New York underground scene, oscillating around Andy Warhol, The Factory, and coming out of the Fluxus movement (the cross disciplinary 'anti-art' movement of the early 1960s) and the minimalist works of John Cage," says Chloe Reith, exhibitions officer at Inverleith House.

Born in 1940 in Concord, New Hampshire, Conrad, who has always played the violin, trained neither as an artist nor a musician, but as a mathematician at Harvard University. "He is not a classical violinist by any means," says Reith, when we look around the exhibition, midway through installation. "His approach is informed through the perspective of mathematics, physics and chemistry."

But if Conrad's heart has long been in his music, he is best known for his film work. His 1966 film, The Flicker, consisting of a 30-minute series of alternating black and white screens, was a seminal work in the Structuralist film movement. "When it first screened, people threw up, had fits and horrendous experiences," says Reith. "But it was the first stroboscopic film ever made, and so people were not used to it ... It is supposed to generate a lot of different colours in your own imagination. That is really what Conrad wants to do - take the authority from the artist and put it inside the viewer." The film will screen in its entirety at Inverleith.

One could also see The Flicker, suggests Reith, as the visual realisation of the musical drone sound that has continued to drive Conrad in all his musical exploits. Common in many musical cultures, including Indian classical music, the continuous note or series of notes of the drone is the basis of Conrad's acoustic work.

As Reith and I stand chatting, we are surrounded by the visual ephemera of the drone. Violins in various states of de- and reconstruction are mounted on low plinths, a tangle of wires attesting to a number of electrical interventions. Visually, you could say it is a metaphor for what Conrad is trying to do to our notion of Western classical music - dismantle it and approach it from another angle. Another room is centred on a series of drums that each have a hole cut in the drumming surface so Conrad can play them with his violin bow.

Elsewhere, a children's piano has been disassembled, leaving only the metal prongs that produce a tinny, tinkling sound. A series of what look like plastic organ pipes turn out to be golf covers. A bench will float a few inches above the ground, suspended on piano wires, which visitors will be able to 'play'. Tiny contact microphones dangle on drum faces and under violins, ready to amplify the sounds which Conrad creates when playing his invented acoustic tools. Upstairs are a series of his electrical works, many no longer functioning, including a power drill that spins a series of records with somewhat random results.

Conrad, still very active in his seventies, last performed in the UK at the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in 2008. He will play his first Scottish performance between 1-3pm on the afternoon of November 9 at Inverleith. Even if you prefer your music more constructed than de-constructed, these sounds from the periphery will make for a highly entertaining afternoon.

Tony Conrad: Invented Acoustical Tools 1969-2014, Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, (0131 248 2971/2849 at weekends, until Janaury 18