Fluxus and DIY Concerts

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Many different art movements of the twentieth century have influenced experimental music. This essay will focus mostly on the effect the Fluxus movement has had on music. Fluxus was particularly important to the development of an understanding that music does not necessarily have to be harmonic, and most importantly, that anyone can create music by organizing everyday sounds. This essay will discuss the following issues: how Fluxus artists challenged experimental/noise music; how audience becomes part of the performance instead of simply observing; and how noise music (as well as the Fluxus movement in general) was a protest against serious traditional culture.

Fluxus was not the first art movement that started the development of noise aesthetics. The proposal that artists should use everyday sounds in their compositions first appeared in the Italian Futurist painter and composer Luigi Russolo’s manifesto “The Art of Noises”. In his text the author criticized the old fashioned tools for sound production, and as an alternative he proposed making new musical instruments and using a multitude of machines. According to Russolo, perfectly harmonious music had reached a point where it no longer had the power to excite or inspire. Consequently, artists of the Dada movement extended experimental music ideas. A prime example was the Anti-Symphony concert performed in Berlin on April 30, 1919. Later, the Surrealist and Fluxus art movements brought in new, fresh ideas to noise/experimental music. The biggest influences were the Fluxus artists Robert Watts, Wolf Vostell, Nam June Paik, George Maciunas, Philip Corner, Benjamin Patterson, LaMonte Young, and Takehisa Kosugi. Fluxus performances grew out of the principle of concrete (ready-made) sound, and the Experimental Composition classes by John Cage ran between 1957 and 1959 at the New School of Social Research in New York. According to Cage, artists should use actions, concrete sounds, and random things, rather than being represented in an illusionist/harmonic manner. There were two different types of Fluxus performances. The early one was the “Events/Neo-haiku Theater”, which was followed by the “Happenings/Neo-Baroque Theater”. Happenings, environments, and Fluxus made the artist aware of sounds’ potentiality in creating work that retained a sense of immediacy, corporeality, and curiosity. [Read more →]