Piero Scaruffi's
History of Avantgarde Music

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Event Music

TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Cage's dadaism survived in different forms. Morton Feldman (USA, 1926) drew inspiration from abstract painting for Rothko Chapel (1971) and the four-hour String Quartet 2 (1983). Henri Pousseur (Belgium, 1929) introduced aleatory elements in Votre Faust (1963). But Cage's legacy was perhaps stronger on "event music", music whose score depends on the gestures/movements/actions of the performers, and sometimes "is" those actions.

The Fluxus movement first realized the interdisciplinary implications of that concept. A group of musicians, painters and writers, organized in New York by Lithuanian-born artist George Maciunas in 1961, they organized chance events bordering on theater, visual art and music. Their works of art were sets of rules that specified the process by which the performers had to produce the music and the audience had to consume it. These happenings demystified the apparatus of western classical music while reintroducing a ritualistic element. TV Bra for Living Sculptures (1969) by Nam June Paik (Korea, 1932) was a typical Fluxus "composition".

Dieter Schnebel (Germany, 1930) scored the third part of Abfaelle (1962) for conductor alone (with no musicians). Franco Donatoni (Italy, 1927) mixed intricate strategies of event and chance in Zrcadlo (1963). Lukas Foss (USA, 1922) was among the composers to employ improvisation, for example in Echoi (1963).

Eventually there emerged a new form of musical theater, as in La Passion Selon Sade (1965) by Sylvano Bussotti (Italy, 1931), and Sur Scene (1960) by Mauricio Kagel (Argentina, 1931).

The first technical director of the Tape Music Center, Michael Callahan, was still a teenager when he helped poet Gerd Stern create the multimedia show "Verbal American Landscape". The duo then moved to New York where in 1964 they helped Steve Durkee form USCO, whose first mentor was a luminary like Marshall McLuhan at the University of Rochester. Their multimedia performance "Who R U" shocked San Francisco in 1964. In 1966 their show "Shrine" at New York's Riverside Museum coined the term "be-in".


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TM, ®, Copyright © 2004 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.