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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

New book by Benjamin Piekut

Published: 16 March 2011

A new book by Benjamin Piekut, Lecturer in Music at Southampton, has just been published by the University of California Press.

Experimentalism Otherwise: The New York Avant-Garde and its Limits appears in the series California Studies in Twentieth-Century Music, edited by Richard Taruskin (University of California, Berkeley).

Focusing on one place and time - New York City, 1964 - Piekut examines five related events: the New York Philharmonic’s disastrous performance of John Cage’s Atlas Eclipticalis; Henry Flynt’s demonstrations against the downtown avant-garde; Charlotte Moorman’s Avant Garde Festival; the founding of the Jazz Composers Guild; and the emergence of Iggy Pop. Drawing together a colorful array of personalities, Piekut argues that each of these examples points to a failure and marks a limit or boundary of canonical experimentalism. What emerges from these marginal moments is an accurate picture of the avant-garde, not as a style or genre, but as a network defined by disagreements, struggles, and exclusions.

Praising the book, Professor Georgina Born (Oxford) writes: "Benjamin Piekut takes scholarship on late 20th century music to new heights with this inventive and compelling study of the networks of experimental music. Weaving a historical ethnography of performances, practices, sounds, and subjectivities together with insights from recent social and anthropological theory . . .  he gives us ‘actually existing experimentalism’ free from idealisation or dilution.”

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