A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music
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Founded in 1965 and still active today, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is an American institution with an international reputation. George E. Lewis, who joined the collective as a teenager in 1971, establishes the full importance and vitality of the AACM with this communal history, written with a symphonic sweep that draws on a cross-generational chorus of voices and a rich collection of rare images.
Moving from Chicago to New York to Paris, and from founding member Steve McCall’s kitchen table to Carnegie Hall, A Power Stronger Than Itself uncovers a vibrant, multicultural universe and brings to light a major piece of the history of avant-garde music and art.
concluding that a major aspiration of the theory that “jazz” and “creative music” are synonyms is the reification of the very borders that the musicians were trying to erase through their revised discourse. This concretization also comes bundled with an attempt to discursively revoke the mobility of the musicians themselves. To shore up this concretion, an ad hominem–based essentialism is deployed in asserting that the creative musicians were “really” jazz musicians after all. That this framing
political structures.”78 The music’s protagonists repeatedly go on record with the understanding that their work represented a personal response to social and political conditions, as well as the economic conditions under which they regularly worked. According to Shepp, for example, the musicians’ shared condition of apparent economic servitude was a prime factor in their dissatisfaction. Speaking of the white-dominated structures of the jazz music industry in terms that clearly recalled slavery,
via a strategy of “managed integration.”123 Another common form of white resistance to integration deployed both random and coordinated violence. Black families moving into previously white areas faced danger from white residents, and furious civil disturbances, such as the Fernwood riot of 1947, the 1949 Englewood riot, the Cicero riot of 1951, and the Trumbull Park riot of 1953, involved thousands of people and often took days or even years to fully contain. Historian Arnold Hirsch describes
that race and gender do not mediate these proceedings is needlessly naïve; at the same time, to claim special advantages based solely on these factors is equally untenable. Thus, a signal factor in the historicization of black music concerns the fact that in the vast majority of cases prior to the late 1960s, as Amiri Baraka pointed out in an important essay from 1963, “Jazz and the White Critic,” those doing interviews with black jazz musicians were most often white, male, and of a different
passing the Fifth Army Band test. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “I met musicians, I played in wonderful orchestras, and I received a lot of encouragement.” Studying hard bop, he met the virtuoso graduate of Englewood High, saxophonist Donald Myrick, as well as the highly accomplished saxophonist Sonny Seals, who gave Braxton a “crash course in bebop.” At the same time, Braxton recalls, “There was a period where I was the only African American man. Lockers turned