Sound Commitments: Avant-Garde Music and the Sixties

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The role of popular music is widely recognized in giving voice to radical political views, the plight of the oppressed, and the desire for social change. Avant-garde music, by contrast, is often thought to prioritize the pursuit of new technical or conceptual territory over issues of human and social concern. Yet throughout the activist 1960s, many avant-garde musicians were convinced that aesthetic experiment and social progressiveness made natural bedfellows. Intensely involved in the era's social and political upheavals, they often sought to reflect this engagement in their music. Yet how could avant-garde musicians make a meaningful contribution to social change if their music remained the preserve of a tiny, initiated clique? In answer, Sound Commitments examines the encounter of avant-garde music and "the Sixties" across a range of genres, aesthetic positions, and geographical locations. Through music for the concert hall, tape and electronic music, jazz and improvisation, Participatory "events," performance art, and experimental popular music, the essays in this volume explore developments in the United States, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, Japan, and Parts of the "Third World," delving into the deep richness of avant-garde musicians' response to the decade's defining cultural shifts.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Recounting little-known tales...confirms Sound Commitments value, in tracing avant-garde sounds' movement from the academy to the streets. More volumes of this quality about those times would be welcome." —Jazz Word

"In popular discourse, that cantankerous and forward-looking decade the 1960s has been far too much smoothed over, redrawn as a climax of fatuous idealism that ultimately produced only new wrinkles in fashion. Adlington's bracingly revealing volume of internationally-chosen case studies in avant-garde music restores that brave era to us as we lived it, with quotations from protagonists on all sides that remind us how much was at stake - and how much we need a resurgence of that idealism today."—Kyle Gann

"Sound Commitments illuminates a decade that challenged prejudice, defeatism, dogma, and victorianism. Adlington's contributors don't smooth over the fault lines, but cover an ambitious variety of nations, styles, media, and agendas. We are left with a sense of failed idealism, but early 21st-century readers are left to ask, ruefully: isn't that better than no idealism whatsoever?"—Arved Ashby, Ohio State University, editor of The Pleasure of Modernist Music: Listening, Meaning, Intention, Ideology

"Makes a convincing case for the continued vigor of the musical avant-garde in the post-World War II period. The essays are impressive both for their individual depth and for their collective geographical and conceptual range."—Jonathan Bernard, University of Washington

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195336641
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/19/2009
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Adlington is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Nottingham. He has written extensively on contemporary classical music, including monographs on Harrison Birtwistle (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and Louis Andriessen (Ashgate, 2004). His current research explores music and politics in Amsterdam between 1966 and 1973, and has resulted in book chapters and articles in Journal of Musicology and Cambridge Opera Journal.

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Table of Contents

Contributors ix

Introduction: Avant-garde Music and the Sixties Robert Adlington 3

1 Avant-garde: Some Introductory Notes on the Politics of a Label Hubert F. van den Berg 15

Part I Ideologies

2 "Demolish Serious Culture!": Henry Flynt and Workers World Party Benjamin Piekut 37

3 Forms of Opposition at the "Politiek-Demonstratief Experimenteel" Concert Robert Adlington 56

4 Aesthetic Theories and Revolutionary Practice: Nikolaus A. Huber and Clytus Gottwald in Dissent Beate Kutschke 78

Part II Rethinking the Popular

5 "Music Is a Universal Human Right": Musica Elettronica Viva Amy C. Beal 99

6 The Problem of the Political in Steve Reich's Come Out Sumanth Gopinath 121

7 The Politics of Presque rien Eric Drott 145

Part III Politicizing Performance

8 ONCE and the Sixties Ralf Dietrich 169

9 "Scream against the Sky": Japanese Avant-garde Music in the Sixties Yayoi Uno Everett 187

Part IV The Challenge of Institutionalization

10 After the October Revolution: The Jazz Avant-garde in New York, 1964-65 Bernard Gendron 211

11 American Cultural Diplomacy and the Mediation of Avant-garde Music Danielle Fosler-Lussier 232

12 From Scriabin to Pink Floyd: The ANS Synthesizer and the Politics of Soviet Music between Thaw and Stagnation Peter J. Schmelz 254

Index 279

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