Experimentalism Otherwise: the New York Avant-Garde and its Limits,
United States, US, University of California Press, 280pp.
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In February 1964, the New York Philharmonic gave its notoriously disruptive performance of John Cage’s Atlas Eclipticalis. Soon thereafter, Henry Flynt led raucous public demonstrations against Karlheinz Stockhausen and the downtown avant-garde. That autumn, Charlotte Moorman premiered her version of Cage’s 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player in an interpretation that the composer would liken to “murder.” In October, Bill Dixon formed the Jazz Composers Guild, an organization that forcefully proclaimed its independence before flaming out six months later. Finally, that fall Robert Ashley performed for the first time his sonically assaultive piece, The Wolfman. He would take this work back with him to Michigan, where it became the inspiration for a young Iggy Pop to experiment with avant-garde techniques in the Stooges.
What do these five stories have in common? Failures at the edges of canonical experimentalism, they each mark a limit or boundary. These marginal moments in “actually existing experimentalism” necessitate a look beyond aesthetic and formalist conceptions of the post-Cagean avant-garde, which emerges through these events not as a style or genre, but as a network defined concretely by a welter of disagreements, struggles, and exclusions
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