A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music

By George E. Lewis | Go to book overview

bers, many of whom were unknown to the New York cohort, were developing approaches to music and its role in the local community that diverged markedly from their older colleagues. Even more crucially, these younger, Chicago-based musicians were becoming known to the public in their hometown as “the AACM.” Local newspaper accounts of the organization were as likely to address the work of Ernest Dawkins, Ameen Muhammad, Edward Wilkerson, Douglas Ewart, and Mwata Bowden as that of the New York–based members.1

Ewart had already released a number of recordings of his own music by this time, beginning with the George Lewis/Douglas Ewart duo album in 1979. In 1983 Ewart founded his own label, Aarawak, on which he released albums such as Red Hills and Bamboo Meditations at Banff, a series of pieces that electronically transformed Ewart's bamboo wind and percussion instruments.2 In 1985 Wilkerson formed the important bands Shadow Vignettes and 8 Bold Souls, whose first recordings, Birth of a Notion and 8 Bold Souls, emerged in 1988.3

In the meantime, in 1982 the New York Chapter had already begun presenting concerts, beginning with a two-day event at the Upper West Side theater, Symphony Space, that included the trio Air, duos by Anthony Braxton and Leroy Jenkins, and Muhal Richard Abrams and Amina Claudine Myers; an ensemble led by Frank Gordon; and two AACM large ensembles, performing pieces by Jenkins, Abrams, Gordon, and Braxton, that included Abrams, Myers, Braxton, Jenkins, Douglas Ewart, Warren Smith, Fred Hopkins, Lester Bowie, Brian Smith, Steve McCall, Craig Harris, Kalaparusha, Thurman Barker, and me. After federal certification of its nonprofit tax status in 1985, the New York Chapter began presenting several concerts yearly, as budgets permitted, in the far more expensive environment of Manhattan. These included an AACM Twentieth Anniversary Celebration in December 1985 that included cellist Abdul Wadud and trombonists Steve Turre and Dick Griffin as guest artists; a twenty-fifth anniversary event at Merkin Concert Hall, one of the leading venues in the city for new music; and finally, its ongoing four-concert season, first at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, and subsequently at the Community Church of New York. The New York Chapter also presented Chicago-based AACM musicians, including Wallace McMillan, Edward Wilkerson, Douglas Ewart, Rita Warford, and Fred Anderson, and its concert series eventually moved to include the work of non-AACM composers, including Warren Smith, saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, percussionist Andrew Cyrille, cellist Nioka Workman, and others.4 The series also presented large-form notated works by Abrams, Jen-

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A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface - The AACM and American Experimentalism ix
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction - An AACM Book: Origins, Antecedents, Objectives, Methods xxiii
  • Chapter Summaries xxxv
  • 1: Foundations and Prehistory 1
  • 2: New Music, New York 29
  • 3: The Development of the Experimental Band 55
  • 4: Founding the Collective 85
  • 5: First Fruits 115
  • 6: The AACM Takes Off 163
  • 7: Americans in Paris 215
  • 8: The AACM's Next Wave 259
  • 9: The AACM in New York 325
  • 10: The New Regime in Chicago 389
  • 11: Into the Third Decade 440
  • 12: Transition and Reflections 481
  • Afterword 497
  • Appendix A - Interviews Conducted by the Author 515
  • Appendix B - Selected AACM Recordings 519
  • Notes 525
  • Bibliography 601
  • Index 637
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