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The expanding universal : participation and pedagogy in experimental music


This dissertation considers the interlinked artistic and pedagogical work of several distinct communities of experimental musicians, stretching from the late 1950s through the 1970s. Each of these groups created a substantially-widened context for musical participation and authorship by less-trained or untrained musicians, especially relative to Western art music norms. This study places the approaches of these diverse experimentalist pedagogical sites (John Cage's New School course, a general music course called The Nature of Music at UC San Diego, the community music schools of Black Arts Movement- era collectives like the AACM and the Black Artist' Group, and the Creative Music Studio of Woodstock, NY) in dialogue, and situates them within diverse theoretical frameworks, including critical pedagogy, the intellectual history of the "long Sixties" the ethnomusicological literature on musical participation, and critical race theory. Additionally, this study places these investigations of experimentalist music teaching methods alongside analysis of musical scores and performances that foreground the participation of untrained or less-trained musicians, many of them created by those very same musician/teachers. These include: the work of Cage and his students Allan Kaprow and George Brecht in and after the New School course; Pauline Oliveros's Sonic Meditations; an album entitled Whisper of Dharma which was created by a mixed-skill, age-diverse group associated with the Black Artists' Group of St. Louis; and scores written by Anthony Braxton to introduce his language music system in classroom and workshop contexts. These close historical links between such participatory musics and dissenting, anti-hiearchical pedagogical sites suggests the need for a new theorization of musical participation, skill/unskill, and knowledge transmission as constitutive concerns for a segment of the musical avant-garde that has received too little consideration. Pulling together these diverse threads--participatory musics and anti-traditional pedagogies from both the post-Cage tradition of experimental composition and the "creative music" tradition associated with black experimentalist composer- improvisers--this dissertation aims to assemble both a historically-grounded philosophical intervention into, and a useable past for, contemporary music-making and music- teaching

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