Hidden Gems! “Source: music of the avant garde”

(All photos from “Source: music of the avant garde”)

This is our first installment of an exciting new blog series where we will be selecting and featuring the most unique items we hold in the music library! Get ready for a mix of some moderately bizarre avant garde pieces along with the hidden gems that not too many people know about!

This weeks edition “Source: music of the avant garde”

We have EVERY issue of this magazine, 11 to be exact, that were released during the 60s and early 70s by teachers and students highlighting a lot of the experimental music and early sound art that was occurring at the time. Each issue was printed only 2000 times so we are one of the few libraries lucky enough to hold the entire collection. Influential composers like John Cage, Steve Reich and Phillip Glass are just examples of the many people featured in this magazine.


img_4043.jpg                Steve Reich and “Phil” Glass performing Reich’s “Four Log Drums”

To give an idea of how experimental this music is, I want to highlight a piece of music by Nelson Howe, included in the 9th issue, entitled “Fur Music” It was written to explore the tactile qualities of fur and to provide a situation where the performer may translate his tactile sensations into patterns of sound.


So here is a picture of the score, included are the pieces of fur and exact instructions on how to touch them. Each symbol and color provide different instructions to the performer on exactly how and when to touch it, and in return, their tactile sensations translate into patterns of sound.

Fur Music III and IV follow different types of instructions to produce different patterns in sound. Each movement ranges in how many figures to use while touching the fur from the whole hand, to two fingers. I can honestly say there is no other piece like it!


There is another work that I want to highlight written by Gerald Shapiro entitled “Breath.” Quoted in this magazine, Gerald said, “I have come to conceive of music as a way of listening rather than the sound which is listened to, and of a piece of music as a process of interaction resulting in the special kind of listening we call music.” With that in mind, he wrote “Breath,” an electronic composition involving microphones, live audio processing, headphones and a group of people.


The score included with additional instruction, calls for the group of people to sit in a circle (in a “darkened room”) and breath together. As they breath, the microphones pick up the audio signal, sends it to a processing station where it gets modified and then returns the signal back to the headsets where the listener/performer hears what the group sounds like. The piece continues until everyone present has had an opportunity to participate!


Just from these two pieces, you can see that this magazine features very unique music and thought. Some are even coupled with records so you can hear performances. They are all incredibly interesting and use all kinds of instruments ranging from acoustic to electric, and even objects that aren’t considered to be instruments like fur.

Come by the library and explore the minds of experimental composers and musicians!