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The Musician as Philosopher: New York's Vernacular Avant-Garde, 1958–1978 (Paperback)

The Musician as Philosopher: New York's Vernacular Avant-Garde, 1958–1978 By Michael Gallope Cover Image
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An insightful look at how avant-garde musicians of the postwar period in New York explored the philosophical dimensions of music’s ineffability.
The Musician as Philosopher explores the philosophical thought of avant-garde musicians in postwar New York: David Tudor, Ornette Coleman, the Velvet Underground, Alice Coltrane, Patti Smith, and Richard Hell. It contends that these musicians—all of whom are understudied and none of whom are traditionally taken to be composers—not only challenged the rules by which music is written and practiced but also confounded and reconfigured gendered and racialized expectations for what critics took to be legitimate forms of musical sound. From a broad historical perspective, their arresting music electrified a widely recognized social tendency of the 1960s: a simultaneous affirmation and crisis of the modern self.

About the Author

Michael Gallope is associate professor of cultural studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Deep Refrains: Music, Philosophy, and the Ineffable, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Praise For…

"Michael Gallope’s The Musician As Philosopher is an inspired and dilative look at the maelstrom of creative work in music and sound emanating from thinkers and doers living and working in mid-twentieth century New York City. . . . Pivoting fluidly between sound and media analyses, aesthetics, political economy, musicology, and critical perspectives on praxis, reception, and consumption, Gallope presents new frameworks for understanding some of the thinking and feeling behind the recorded works now canonized as exemplars of a gritty and resourceful vernacular avant-garde. . . .Understanding these musicians as philosophers, Gallope offers readers a deep history of sounds, styles, and ideas that ushered in music’s future."
— Kwami T. Coleman, New York University

"The Musician as Philosopher counts to my mind as the highest achievement to date of Michael Gallope’s already storied career. In work ranging from history to high theory and taking in everything from philosophy to recording technologies and extended techniques to a large array of documentary archives, The Musician as Philosopher gives us a nuanced dive into an American avant-garde previously unimagined, and emerges with a persuasive thesis: that a diverse strain of experimental American musicians of the 1950s-1970s were resistant vernacular philosophers. Wildly divergent in their positions, mainstream to minoritized, and making use of different affordances, they nevertheless shared a driving ambition to push the boundaries of conventional musicking in ways diversely aligned with utopianism, mysticism, and Black traditions, and with common inclinations toward valuing process over product, exploring non-Westernisms, and experimenting variously with esotericism, ecstasy, deskilling, “oblique metaphysics,” irony, hallucination, self-shedding, nihilisms, and other kinds of what Gallope calls “alchemies.” Here at last is a book that shows brilliantly how to write history and philosophy at the same time."
— Martha Feldman, University of Chicago

Product Details
ISBN: 9780226831763
ISBN-10: 0226831760
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: March 15th, 2024
Pages: 320
Language: English