After Experimental Music is a symposium dedicated to exploring current perspectives on experimental music studies in North America and beyond. This event brings speakers from across North America to Cornell University, including a keynote address from George E. Lewis of Columbia University. In addition to papers presented throughout the weekend, the event will include artist-practitioner talks by C. Spencer Yeh (NYC) and Marina Rosenfeld (NYC, Bard College), and two concerts—a duo performance by Lewis and Rosenfeld at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art; and sets by Raven Chacon, (Albuquerque), c_RL (Toronto), and Sarah Hennies (Ithaca) at Casita Del Polaris.
This symposium was inspired by the question, “What does experimental music mean?” And, building from that, “What does it mean anymore?” The impulses of experimentalism, as it took shape in the multifaceted arenas of twentieth-century musical inquiry, have long since diffused into broader fields of creative sonic practice. Yet the drive at definition persists. Brian Eno, in his foreword to the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Michael Nyman’s foundational text, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, offers one that sidesteps the foreclosures anticipated by aesthetic and conceptual circumscriptions: it is music that moved the fundamental act of listening from “out there to in here.” In other words, a music borne of perception and intellection, that exists principally in the aural imagination and interpretive prerogatives of the listener. Today, experimentalism does indeed appear to be very much “out there,” as an increasingly visible and audible aspect of popular culture. Unmoored from its provenance as the avant-garde’s unruly Other, experimentalism proliferates into unlikely facets of the musical everyday: in nearly every genre of music we find creative peregrinations into sonic and cultural wildernesses, from abstract hip hop to avant-rock to freak folk. In this sense, this symposium is both aimed at a chasing “after” experimental music—pursuing it, seeing where it leads us—but it is also about pushing us to think about what comes next.
This symposium is presented with generous support from the Atkinson Forum in American Studies. Other supporters include the Department of Music at Cornell University, the Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and Ithaca Underground. All events are free and open to the public.