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Avant-garde Rock Collection [Part 4]

The pivotal development behind the rise of avant-garde rock was strong aesthetic posture adopted by the Beatles--then the most popular music act in the world--with the release of Rubber Soul in late 1965. The album represented a turning point in rock history. For the first time, the long-playing record was viewed as a medium for making a coherent artistic statement rather than as a mere collection of singles. Furthermore, the individual tracks displayed a heightened level of songwriting sophistication. The lyrics in songs like "In My Life" and "Norwegian Wood" revealed a maturity hitherto unprecedented in rock. The refined production work by George Martin offered a dazzling array of instrumental colors and performance dynamics.

Avant-garde Rock Collection [Part 4]

A dedicated core of musicians--both rock scene insiders and refugees from the serious music sector seeking a larger audience-- immediately took up the baton. Their aesthetic aspirations were nurtured by a slew of newly established record labels dedicated to issuing uncompromising music within the framework of small-market economics. This ethic has remained intact for more than thirty years with the avant-garde movement continuing to be enriched by the incorporation of new conceptual ideas and stylistic influences.

In The Society of the Spectacle (1967), Guy Debord said that the financial, commercial, and economic co-optation of the avant-garde into a commodity produced by neoliberal capitalism makes doubtful that avant-garde artists will remain culturally and intellectually relevant to their societies for preferring profit to cultural change and political progress. In The Theory-Death of the Avant-Garde (1991), Paul Mann said that the avant-garde are economically integral to the contemporary institutions of the Establishment, specifically as part of the culture industry.[17] Noting the conceptual shift, theoreticians, such as Matei Calinescu, in Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism (1987),[18] and Hans Bertens in The Idea of the Postmodern: A History (1995),[19] said that Western culture entered a post-modern time when the modernist ways of thought and action and the production of art have become redundant in a capitalist economy.[20]

Avant-garde in music can refer to any form of music working within traditional structures while seeking to breach boundaries in some manner.[26] The term is used loosely to describe the work of any musicians who radically depart from tradition altogether.[27] By this definition, some avant-garde composers of the 20th century include Arnold Schoenberg,[28] Richard Strauss (in his earliest work),[29] Charles Ives,[30] Igor Stravinsky,[28] Anton Webern,[31] Edgard Varèse, Alban Berg,[31] George Antheil (in his earliest works only), Henry Cowell (in his earliest works), Harry Partch, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis,[28] Morton Feldman, Karlheinz Stockhausen,[32] Pauline Oliveros,[33] Philip Glass, Meredith Monk,[33] Laurie Anderson,[33] and Diamanda Galás.[33]

The 1960s saw a wave of free and avant-garde music in jazz genre, embodied by artists such as Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.[35][36] In the rock music of the 1970s, the "art" descriptor was generally understood to mean "aggressively avant-garde" or "pretentiously progressive".[37] Post-punk artists from the late 1970s rejected traditional rock sensibilities in favor of an avant-garde aesthetic.

Experimental rock, also called avant-rock, is a subgenre of rock music[2] that pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance technique[11] or which experiments with the basic elements of the genre.[12] Artists aim to liberate and innovate, with some of the genre's distinguishing characteristics being improvisational performances, avant-garde influences, odd instrumentation, opaque lyrics (or instrumentals), unorthodox structures and rhythms, and an underlying rejection of commercial aspirations.[3]

From its inception, rock music was experimental, but it was not until the late 1960s that rock artists began creating extended and complex compositions through advancements in multitrack recording. In 1967, the genre was as commercially viable as pop music, but by 1970, most of its leading players had incapacitated themselves in some form.[clarification needed] In Germany, the krautrock subgenre merged elements of improvisation and psychedelic rock with electronic music, avant-garde and contemporary classical pieces. Later in the 1970s, significant musical crossbreeding took place in tandem with the developments of punk and new wave, DIY experimentation, and electronic music. Funk, jazz-rock, and fusion rhythms also became integrated into experimental rock music.

Although experimentation had always existed in rock music,[nb 1] it was not until the late 1960s that new openings were created from the aesthetic intersecting with the social.[15][jargon] In 1966, the boundaries between pop music and the avant-garde began to blur as rock albums were conceived and executed as distinct, extended statements.[16] Self-taught rock musicians in the middle and late 1960s drew from the work of composers such as John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Luciano Berio. Academic Bill Martin writes: "in the case of imitative painters, what came out was almost always merely derivative, whereas in the case of rock music, the result could be quite original, because assimilation, synthesis, and imitation are integral parts of the language of rock."[17]

In the late 1960s, groups such as the Mothers of Invention, the Velvet Underground, the Fugs, the Monks, Red Krayola, Soft Machine, Pink Floyd and the Beatles began incorporating elements of avant-garde music, sound collage, and poetry in their work.[24] Historian David Simonelli writes that, further to the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" (Revolver, 1966), the band's February 1967 double A-side single, pairing "Strawberry Fields Forever" with "Penny Lane", "establish[ed] the Beatles as the most avant-garde [rock] composers of the postwar era".[25] Aside from the Beatles, author Doyle Greene identifies Frank Zappa, the Velvet Underground, Plastic Ono Band, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Pink Floyd, the Soft Machine and Nico as "pioneers of avant-rock".[26][nb 4] In addition, The Quietus' Ben Graham described duos the Silver Apples and Suicide as antecedents of avant-rock.[28] Pitchfork cited Red Krayola as being "likely the most experimental band of the 1960s" on their review of God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It.[29]

In the opinion of Stuart Rosenberg, the first "noteworthy" experimental rock group was the Mothers of Invention, led by composer Frank Zappa.[2] Greene recognises the group's debut album, Freak Out!, as marking the "emergence of the 'avant-rock' studio album" at a time when Warhol's presentation of the Velvet Underground's shows was redefining the parameters of a rock concert.[30] According to author Kelly Fisher Lowe, Zappa "set the tone" for experimental rock with the way he incorporated "countertextural aspects ... calling attention to the very recordedness of the album".[31] This was reflected in other contemporary experimental rock LPs, such as the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Smile, the Who's The Who Sell Out (1967) and Tommy (1969), and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).[31] The Velvet Underground were a "groundbreaking group in experimental rock", according to Rosenberg, "even further out of step with popular culture than the early recordings of the Mothers of Invention".[32] The band were playing experimental rock in 1965 before other significant countercultural rock scenes had developed,[33] pioneering avant-rock through their integration of minimalist rock and avant-garde ideas.[34][nb 5]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Germany's "krautrock" scene (also referred to as kosmische or elektronische musik) saw bands develop a form of experimental rock[6][42] that drew on rock sources, such as the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa, as well as wider avant-garde influences.[24] Groups such as Can, Faust, Neu!, Amon Düül II, Ash Ra Tempel, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and Popol Vuh merged elements of psychedelic rock with electronic music, funk rhythms, jazz improvisation, and avant-garde and contemporary classical compositions,[43][42] as well as new electronic instrumentation.[24] The ideas of minimalism and composers such as Stockhausen would be particularly influential.[24] The movement was partly born out of the student movements of 1968, as German youth sought a unique countercultural identity[42][24] and wanted to develop a form of German music that was distinct from the mainstream music of the period.[6]

Ummagumma is the fourth album by English rock band Pink Floyd. It is a double album and it was released on 7 November 1969 by Harvest Records.[4] The first disc consists of live recordings from concerts at Mothers Club in Birmingham and the College of Commerce in Manchester that contained part of their normal set list of the time, while the second contains solo compositions by each member of the band recorded at EMI Studios (now Abbey Road Studios).[5][6] The artwork was designed by regular Floyd collaborators Hipgnosis and features a number of pictures of the band combined to give a Droste effect. It was the last album cover to feature the band.

The sequence of songs that emerged on the record revealed a growing intention to make albums that were not merely a gathering of hit 45s plus supporting material, but a collection that took the notion of the long player into a thrillingly groundbreaking phase: individual examples of technical invention that were never going to trouble the Top 40 panels but were part of a longer listening experience for a maturing audience.


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