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Tomorrow Is the Question

New Directions in Experimental Music Studies

Benjamin Piekut

Publication Year: 2014

In recent decades, experimental music has flourished outside of European and American concert halls. The principles of indeterminacy, improvisation, nonmusical sound, and noise, pioneered in concert and on paper by the likes of Henry Cowell, John Cage, and Ornette Coleman, can now be found in all kinds of new places: activist films, rock recordings, and public radio broadcasts, not to mention in avant-garde movements around the world.The contributors to Tomorrow Is the Question explore these previously unexamined corners of experimental music history, considering topics such as Sonic Youth, Julius Eastman, the Downtown New York pop avant-garde of the 1970s, Fluxus composer Benjamin Patterson, Tokyo’s Music group (aka Group Ongaku), the Balinese avant-garde, the Leicester school of British experimentalists, Cuba’s Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC, Pauline Oliveros’s score for the feminist documentary Maquilapolis, NPR’s 1980s RadioVisions, and the philosophy of experimental musical aesthetics.Taken together, this menagerie of people, places, and things makes up an actually existing experimentalism that is always partial, compromised, and invented in its local and particular formations—in other words, these individual cases suggest that experimentalism has been a far more variegated set of practices and discourses than previously recognized. Asking new questions leads to researching new materials, new individuals, and new contexts and, eventually, to the new critical paradigms that are necessary to interpret these materials. Gathering contributions from historical musicology, enthnomusicology, history, philosophy, and cultural studies, Tomorrow Is the Question generates future research directions in experimental music studies by way of a productive inquiry that sustains and elaborates critical conversations.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: New Questions for Experimental Music

Benjamin Piekut

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pp. 1-14

...most often, the manner in which the question is framed reveals that the answer is already known, or at least assumed: “Experimentalism is the thing that all these experimental composers do.” Indeed, definitions of experimentalism usually begin...

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1. Goodbye 20th Century! : Sonic Youth Records John Cage’s “Number Pieces”

Elizabeth Ann Lindau

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pp. 15-38

...Noisefest, where they used drumsticks to beat detuned guitars with screwdrivers jammed between their strings. For nearly three decades, the group has distilled punk, hardcore, free jazz, experimental electronica, and mainstream pop into an unmistakable...

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2. John Cage, Julius Eastman, and the Homosexual Ego

Ryan Dohoney

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pp. 39-62

...regularly from 1971 to 1975 and again in its complete form in 1982. After a number of well-received performances, Morton Feldman invited the group to perform Song Books at his first June in Buffalo festival on June 4, 1975. Kyle Gann recalled the performance in a 1988...

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3. Pluralism, Minor Deviations, and Radical Change: The Challenge to Experimental Music in Downtown New York, 1971–85

Tim Lawrence

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pp. 63-85

...dancers came together to forge the early contours of hip-hop. Also dating back to the early 1970s, punk, new wave, and eventually no wave germinated in spots such as Max’s Kansas City, the Mercer Street Arts Center, CBGB, the Mudd Club, Danceteria...

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4. Benjamin Patterson’s Spiritual Exercises

George E. Lewis

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pp. 86-108

...heard about, including Dick Higgins, Nam June Paik, Emmett Williams, and others who would later become part of the movement. By 1962, Maciunas had developed the idea of combining the magazine with a “FLUXUS festival of new music,” which ultimately turned into the signal event that announced the name...

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5. Challenge to Music: The Music Group’s Sonic Politics

William Marotti

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pp. 109-138

...becomes symptomatic of both a continuing resistance to its claims and practice and a contributory self-exoticization. If the history of this foundational group is to contribute fully to a reconsideration of both “experiment” and “music,” and if we are...

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6. Balinese Experimentalism and the Intercultural Project

Andrew C. McGraw

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pp. 139-158

...relationship to broader cultural context, allow us to move beyond some of the common assumptions that have guided prior research in experimental music; Indonesian experimental music, or musik kontemporer, and therefore leads to a broader...

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7. British Experimental Music after Nyman

Virginia Anderson

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pp. 159-179

...work of continental avant-garde composers.1 Nyman had primarily defined experimental music in opposition to “the music of such avant-garde composers as Boulez, Kagel, Xenakis, Birtwistle, Berio, Stockhausen, Bussotti, which is conceived and executed along the well-trodden but sanctified path of the post-Renaissance...

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8. Experimental Music and Revolution: Cuba’s Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC

Tamara Levitz

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pp. 180-210

...ensemble, the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna—who gathered together a crew of excellent jazz musicians that included bass player Eduardo Ramos, flautist Genaro García Caturla, and saxophonist, flugelhornist, and recorder player Leonardo Acosta...

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9. Sounds of the Sweatshop: Pauline Oliveros and Maquilapolis

Stephanie Jensen-Moulton

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pp. 211-228

...Oliveros applies to the original score of Maquilapolis render her music for the film as politically relevant as the documentary itself. While the soundtrack subversively contributes to the toppling of economic and social structures of power crucial to the subjugation of Mexican women workers, the sound editors have rendered...

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10. Imagining Listeners through American Experimental Music: NPR’s RadioVisions

Louise E. Chernosky

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pp. 229-253

...was intended to help listeners draw connections between broadcasts and to make sense of the potentially unfamiliar sounds in each segment. For further guidance, the programs also incorporated recorded interviews with composers, performers...

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11. Materialism, Ontology, and Experimental Music Aesthetics

Joanna Demers

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pp. 254-274

...does music signify? In sound that seems not to indicate meaning, how do we talk about what we hear? Is it possible to hear sound without attributing to it some meaning? Can we engage with artistic materials without interpreting them as signs? These questions...

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List of Contributors

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pp. 275-278

...musicologist and clarinettist specializing in British experimental indeterminacy, improvisation, minimalism, and alternative notation. She has written for a number of journals and books on experimental organology, politics, minimalism, time and listening, linguistics, and the science of indeterminacy. She is on the editorial board...


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pp. 279-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780472120116
E-ISBN-10: 0472120115

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 880413282
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Tomorrow Is the Question

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Music -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Music -- 21st century -- History and criticism.
  • Avant-garde (Music).
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