Sound Commitments: Avant-Garde Music and the Sixties

By Robert Adlington | Go to book overview

5
“Music Is a Universal
Human Right”
Musica Elettronica Viva

Amy C. Beal

Beyond the rupture of the economic conditions of music, compo-
sition is revealed as the demand for a truly different system of
organization, a network within which a different kind of music
and different social relations can arise. A music produced by each
individual for himself, for pleasure outside of meaning, usage, and
exchange.… But the dangers are immense, for once the repetitive
world is left behind, we enter a realm of fantastic insecurity.1

An art form which aims for highest efficiency in times of the highest
urgency must be based on dialog. It must reject the possibility of the
impartial observer, present but not involved in the communication
process, as contradictory to the idea of communication itself.… Such
an art form must be improvised, free to move in the present without
burdening itself with the dead weight of the past.2

The music is outrageous—inexorable;… larger than life.3

From the open windows of a Rome apartment across the street from the 1800-year-old Pantheon, in early September 1966, a group improvisation complemented the ambient sounds of the Piazza della Rotonda below. The uninhibited nature of the improvisation—instrumental, electronic, vocal, serene, aggressive, playful, and spontaneous—suggested an attempt to “make music with whatever means are available.”4 This seemingly innocent statement, made by American composer Frederic Rzewski in 1967, strips away the layers of training, technique, and talent

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