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By George E. Lewis

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Founded in 1965 and nonetheless lively this present day, the organization for the development of inventive Musicians (AACM) is an American establishment with a world recognition. George E. Lewis, who joined the collective as in 1971, establishes the complete significance and energy of the AACM with this communal historical past, written with a symphonic sweep that pulls on a cross-generational refrain of voices and a wealthy number of infrequent images.

Moving from Chicago to big apple to Paris, and from founding member Steve McCall’s kitchen desk to Carnegie corridor, A strength greater Than Itself uncovers a colourful, multicultural universe and brings to gentle a big piece of the historical past of avant-garde track and art.

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Extra info for A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music

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I try to show how this ostensibly individualized autodidact practice of jazz learning was in most cases self-consciously collective, and moreover, hardly as socially Darwinist as some rather famous observers, including Ralph Ellison, have suggested. Here, I connect Scott DeVeaux’s account of the economic advantages of jazz standardization with the accounts I collected of black Chicago’s bebop “main scene” of the 1950s, a poorly documented scene for which the usual New York–centric historical tropes provide at best a rather too Procrustean fit.

But they were in the neighborhood with us.

I discuss the first attempts at self-governance, self-promotion, and self-production by itinerant musicians without access to major resources. As the membership expanded, drawing younger members who were distanced from the bebop practice that marked the experiences of most of the older early members, the focus of the collective’s activities began increasingly to center around new musical forms. I trace the early debates in the AACM that led to a split over issues of aesthetics, populism versus elitism, canon promulgation and historical reference, and the overall relevance of experimental music to the black community.

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