Tag Archives: Avant-Garde

A Guide to the Discography of Diamanda Galás, Avant-Garde Oracle

Diamanda Galas

Photo by Austin Young

When I spoke with avant-garde legend Diamanda Galás in 2017, she had some understandably harsh words for critics who fail to understand both the deep and intense emotional veins running through her discography as well as the actual musical history behind her work. “People who do not know anything about music—notably, most music critics—really should equip themselves with the changes of the original song and realize that every single one of the chord changes I use are connected to the original chord changes,” she said, speaking about misinterpretations of her performance of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” on All the Way. “It is not a bunch of keys falling down the stairs, and it is not someone who uses the song to her own ends only to destroy it and desecrate it and dismember it.”

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The Lasting Legacy of the Art Ensemble of Chicago

In May of 1969, a Chicago-based quartet of radically experimental musicians made two decisions that resonate to this day. 

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NoBusiness Records Brings the Past and Present of Avant-Jazz Together

No Business, Billy Bang

Billy Bang

Ten years into its existence, NoBusiness Records is widely regarded as one of the finest avant-jazz labels in the world. It’s especially renowned for its archival digs into the 1970s New York loft scene and its thoughtful curation of contemporary improvised music from around the world. Based in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, the label grew out of founders Danas Mikailionis and Valerij Anosov’s concert promotions. With no Lithuanian label willing to put out the recordings of those concerts, the pair took matters into their own hands, egged on by Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, whose solo and group performances became NoBusiness’s first releases. “Mats encouraged us to start the label,” recalls Mikailionis. “He said that we needed to be bold and gave us some invaluable advice on how to deal with the press and distributors. Of course it started slowly, but we received very positive feedback and it started growing.”

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Eight Artists Keeping The Polish Jazz/Avant-Garde Tradition Moving Forward

Polish Jazz

It may be the 100th anniversary of Poland’s restoration as the Second Polish Republic this November 11, but this year also marked a culturally important round-number anniversary for the nation: 60 years ago, in 1958, Dave Brubeck became the first American jazz musician to perform behind the Iron Curtain, acting as a cultural ambassador who would ultimately have a profound effect on Poland’s musical culture. Shortly afterward, he wrote an open letter addressed to “my dear friends in Poland,” thanking them for their hospitality and predicting that, “I believe that the future for jazz in Poland is a bright one. Wherever you find such a group of young, eager, and talented musicians as I have heard in Warsaw and Krakow and other cities, you know there is a vital force which must be and will be expressed.”  Continue reading

Indonesian Avant-Garde Doom Duo Senyawa Forge Their Own Path (and Instruments)


The Indonesian duo Senyawa—vocalist Rully Shabara and instrumentalist Wukir Suryadi—have been together for nearly a decade, making breathtaking (and, at times, unnerving) music and thrilling audiences across the globe who thought they’d seen and heard it all. Their work combines throat singing and other avant-garde vocal techniques, doom metal’s subterranean roar, and the clang and drone of industrial “modern primitive” acts like Einstürzende Neubauten or Test Dept. It’s an unearthly sound that is at the same time deeply rooted in nature, as evidenced by the track titles on their latest album, Sujud (Prostration). Each piece has an Indonesian name which is translated into English; the list includes “Tanggalkan Di Dunia (Undo the World),” “Terbertaktilah Tanah Ini (Blessed is This Land),” “Kebaikan Tumbuh Dari Tanah (Goodness Grows Off Soil),” and “Kembali Ke Dunia (Return to the World).”

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The San Francisco Tape Music Center Was an Early Home to the Avant-Garde

San Francisco Tape Center

Bill Maginnis, Tony Martin, Ramon Sender, Mort Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros. Photo courtesy of the Center for Contemporary Music Archive.

The San Francisco Tape Music Center was created under the premise of utilizing magnetic tape and electronics as compositional tools, but its legacy has touched nearly all aspects of the avant-garde. The Center’s foundations were laid by a handful of progressive West Coast composers and artists who were interested in electronic music, the tape medium, and the idea of pushing art forward.

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Rodrigo Amado Embraces Jazz’s Elemental Nature on “A History of Nothing”

Rodrigo Amado

Photo by Geert Vandepoele

“I don’t work with any concepts. We just go into the studio or onto the stage and play,” says Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado. For Amado, freedom is about creating music in the moment, from a blank slate: “If we are improvising from nothing, then we can really focus 100 percent on the moment.”

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How E-Commerce and Cassettes Shaped Pica Disk

Pica Disk

Even while in Bodø, a small town above the Arctic Circle in Norway where he lived from 2016 until this month, Lasse Marhaug maintained an important, and presentplace in the global musical underground. Now living in Oslo and active since his teenage years in the late ’80s, the 43-year-old multidisciplinary artist has a Discogs page that’s 163 entries long, marked by dozens of distinctly experimental solo releases and collaborations with a who’s who of contemporary avant-garde music: Merzbow, Joe McPhee, and Jim O’Rourke to name only three. Marhaug keeps busy as a masterer and producer, too, lending support to albums by artists such as fellow Norwegian Jenny Hval, the Korean-born, New York-based cellist Okkyung Lee, and recently, the reclusive New Zealand electronic musician Clinton Williams, aka OMIT, whose mind-boggling five-CD box set Enclosures 2011–2016 came out in February via two labels, End of the Alphabet and Pica Disk, the latter of which Marhaug founded in 2006.

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