This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Freak Out: The 1960s Musical Avant Garde Revisited

3795 words - 15 pages

Freak Out: The 1960s Musical Avant-garde Revisited

“This is my happening and it freaks me out!” Z-man Barzel in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

The title of this essay “Freak Out: The 1960s Musical Avant-garde Revisited” invites me to explore the explosion of new ideas that permeated many forms of western musical expression in the 1960s. When I was given a new course to teach at the University of Guelph called “The Musical Avant-garde” (2002) no one could quite tell me what they meant me to teach, except that it would cover all that “difficult music” of the second half of the 20th century. By this my colleagues meant serious European art music by gold-plate composers such as Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio, and Gyorgy Ligeti.

Shortly after the end of WWII, the “new music” coalesced around the Darmstadt summer courses in composition where these young European composers, cut off from each other during the war, rediscovered the music of early 20th century modernists such as Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and especially Anton von Webern, and were inspired by their radical ideas of creating new systems for composing music. Young European composers didn’t try to write music like Schoenberg and Webern, rather they took to heart these composers’ basic principles: the idea of pre-ordering musical elements (serialization) and the idea of treating each sound as a discrete event, independent of the sounds around it. From these two premises, all sorts of exciting new ground was opened up – from rigorous compositional control to the notion that one could choose to leave things wide open to chance - so that by the 1960s musical elements such as tone colour and texture took the place of traditional harmony in creating musical structures. Take for example the Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti’s 1961 piece Atmosphères. Here Ligeti works “at a more complex level than that of individual notes and intervals, handling streams of coloured and textured time” (Griffiths 7 – liner notes). Ligeti slowly builds buzzing clusters of static sound that are at the very centre of the work’s formal organization.

Now I love the European music of this period, but as I began to try to define “the musical avant-garde” I found myself gleefully listening to a wide span of music whose experimental impulses had always turned me on. Here I’ll explore some different notions of the musical avant-garde (and its corollary – experimentalism) as they apply to music of the 1960s. We’ll visit various territories including popular music, jazz, feminism, even Canada in an effort to unpack the assumptions behind academic discourses on ‘avant-garde’ and ‘experimental’ music.

The “Freak Out” of my title, by the way, stems from Frank Zappa’s first album of the same name released in 1966 – not to be confused with Chic’s 1977 disco mega-hit “Le Freak”. As Andrew Boscardin has written “Arguably rock music's first true "concept album," Zappa's aural collage...

Find Another Essay On Freak Out: The 1960s Musical Avant-garde Revisited

Kerouac’s Spontaneous Prose and the Post-War Avant-Garde

3111 words - 12 pages Kerouac’s Spontaneous Prose and the Post-War Avant-Garde My title comes from one of Kerouac’s own essays, “Aftermath: The Philosophy of the Beat Generation,” which he published in Esquire in March 1958. In it, he identifies the Beats as subterranean heroes who’d finally turned from the ‘freedom’ machine of the West and were taking drugs, digging bop, having flashes of insight, experiencing the ‘derangement of the senses

Avant-garde Electrical Grid – Cloud Computing: The World Wide Computer

1004 words - 5 pages of power a century ago is now happening to the processing of information. Private computer systems, built and operated by individual companies, are being supplanted by services provided by a common grid – the Internet – by centralized data processing plants” He uses electrification as a reference to point out how the switch from decentralization to centralization of information technology has altered our culture, society and our way of life

Jazz Movement in the 1960s

2303 words - 9 pages one true native contribution to the arts, was clearly within reach of the two goals towards which it had been striving with so little success for many frustrating years: security and maturity (Feather 51)." Again showing the revolutionary and emotional spirit of jazz and the surprising success of the avant-garde period is the following quote; "For a time it seemed as if experimentation and revolution might lead to musical anarchy, but by the 1970

Music of Ukraine

2246 words - 9 pages wholesale retreat from the sort of composing done in the 1920s. The ideological pressure eased somewhat only in the 1960s. The relaxation allowed for a whole group of young composers to use the newest means of musical expression. The members of this group, who went by the name 'Kyiv Avant-Garde', were Leonid Hrabovsky, Valentyn Sylvestrov, Vitalii Hodziatsky, Volodymyr Zahortsev, and Volodymyr Huba. The appearance of this group created much

The History of Twister

2063 words - 8 pages avant-garde modernism, which lends itself easily to the claims of the progressive ideologies of modernism,” (Loag, 407). A time of rewriting musical trends and making it more expressive can be seen in the game Twister. Unlike other board games, Twister became one of the first games that made players actively participate. Twister was a byproduct of this modernism movement, because unlike other games where you would move pieces or sit around, in

Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren

1640 words - 7 pages Meshes of the Afternoon where they wanted to portray different levels of the subconscious mind and psychological conditions inspired by Sigmund Freud’s and Salvador Dali’s theme. Meshes of the Afternoon is one Maya Deren’s successful film that depicted different states of the subconscious mind by using several different formal elements. Maya Deren made her way to the top among the Avant-garde filmmakers of 1940s and her films were of real and

Analysis of “Dream Images (Love-Death Music)” from Makrokosmos by George Crumb

926 words - 4 pages George Crumb, an American avant-garde style composer born in 1929, once declared, “It is easy to write unthinking music” (Bio.com, American Composers Orchestra). In his piece, “Dream Images”, Crumb intentionally uses both tonal and post-tonal techniques, such as set theory, melodic borrowing, and specific usage of dynamics, to create an unconscious feeling, as if in a dream. Although the theme of “Dream Images” is one of “unthinking” and

How do any of the film-makers that you have seen, during the course of this module, make the cinema itself, their primary subject of investigation

1420 words - 6 pages the viewers to suspend their desire to label or mis-recognise the object on the screen.Directors such as Michael Snow were also known as avant garde directors. "Avant-garde" is a word from the French, meaning "ahead of the crowd." In contemporary English, we'd say it's on the "cutting edge." Avant-garde film-makers want to experiment with new ideas, forms, techniques, and expressions and are often said to be ahead of their time. Avant-garde films

Musical theatre in Poland

1270 words - 6 pages unequivocal faces of avant-garde musical performances. With a big productions like: ‘Tangerines and oranges’, ‘Fever’ and most recently ‘Scat’ and ‘Stink in the mountains’, the Capitol became the face of a new generation of musical. Some people love it, others do not spare criticism - characteristic features of these performances include not popular yet musical pastiche and a wealth of musical and theatrical forms. Other institutions have adopted

Russian Modernism Before 1917

928 words - 4 pages to as “avant-garde”. The term avant-garde defined the educated elite who developed new and experimental concepts during the modernism era. In order to bring about this new movement of modernism and publicize it for everyone to know, a magazine, World of Art, was founded in 1898. Its sole purpose was to introduce European and British modernist trends, along with the Russian modernist works. It was more than just a magazine, however; it was in its

"The Planet of the Apes" (Goldsmith vs. Elfman)

1266 words - 5 pages It is no surprise that a great movie like the "Planet of the Apes" would settle for a sub par musical score. "The Planet of the Apes" 1968 version scored by Jerry Goldsmith is considered to be "avant-garde", and his score was considered to be groundbreaking and innovative. "The Planet of the Apes" 2001 version scored by Danny Elfman for many was taken as a great musical score. In comparing the early film and its new version, I found that both

Similar Essays

The Avant Garde Die First Essay

2618 words - 10 pages The Avant-Garde Die First In the 19th century, under the suffocating weight of a centuries long tradition in academic art, artists began to break free. Tired of meaningless imitation and decoration, the avant-garde artists pushed for drastic revolutions in aesthetic and social taste. This experimentation rapidly grew less and less controlled, and new technique and new style, which shocked and enraged the critics and public

The Avant Garde Architecture O Essay

1299 words - 5 pages these reasons, I.M. Pei seems to be an architect who exhibits interest in the avant-garde through both the creative design and aestheticism of his architecture.Pei was born in China in 1917 and immigrated to the United States in 1935. He originally attended the University of Pennsylvania but grew unconfident in his drawing skills so he dropped out and pursued engineering at MIT. After Pei decided to return to architecture, he earned degrees from

The British Avant Garde: A Philosophical Analysis

3208 words - 13 pages The British Avant-Garde: A Philosophical Analysis ABSTRACT: British Avant-Garde art, poses a challenge to traditional aesthetic analysis. This paper will argue that such art is best understood in terms of Wittgenstein¡¦s concept of "seeing-as," and will point out that the artists often use this concept in describing their work. This is significant in that if we are to understand art in terms of cultural practice, then we must actually look at

The Dada Movement Russian Avant Garde On The Internet

1416 words - 6 pages The Dada Movement - Russian Avant-Garde on the World Wide Web Russia witnessed an artistic revolution during the turn of the 20th century that attempted to overturn art's place in society. Today, we are witnessing a new revolution that is growing at an alarming rate and attracting a variety of people every day. This phenomenon is known as the Internet. The World Wide Web is more than a medium for education and research, but serves as a tool