A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American by George E. Lewis

By George E. Lewis

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Founded in 1965 and nonetheless energetic this day, the organization for the development of inventive Musicians (AACM) is an American establishment with a global recognition. George E. Lewis, who joined the collective as in 1971, establishes the entire value and power of the AACM with this communal background, written with a symphonic sweep that pulls on a cross-generational refrain of voices and a wealthy choice of infrequent images.

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

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

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AACM musicians, to the extent that they bore membership in jazz-identified worlds, found themselves in the thick of the debates over tradition and innovation that marked this period. At the same time, as I note, the movement to promote a unitary jazz canon that excluded experimental music never gained sufficient traction in Chicago to overshadow what the city, along with much of the rest of the world beyond the borders of the United States and the limitations of its corporate media, felt was the AACM’s creation of a homegrown movement of historical importance.

Beating the drum in a 1940s edition of Chicago’s Bud Billiken Parade, the annual black youth event sponsored by the black newspaper of record, the Chicago Defender, young Stephen experienced a musical epiphany. As his mother tells it, “He saw this big drum in there and he just wanted to beat that drum, Foundations and Prehistory :: 5 but somebody was going to have to help him, because he was a little guy with little skinny legs. He just got a chance to beat this drum. Oh, he was so happy. ”15 Richard Abrams’s paternal grandparents brought the family to Chicago, where Abrams was born in 1930 as the second of nine children.

Abrams remembers his father as “well-educated, very smart, but . . there’s this phenomenon that happened because of racism to keep black people out of certain kinds of situations—so I guess he elected to say, well, I’ll just make my own stuff,”16 an assertion of self-determination that Abrams explicitly connects with the goals of the AACM. Abrams’s mother, born in Memphis, worked at home as a housewife. Her militancy about excellence and independence through education made a strong impression on all of her children.

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