Sunday, July 17, 2016

You Are My Everlovin'

Henry Flynt was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1940.  He is both an exhibited artist and an anti-art activist as well as a philosopher-musician.  His work is often associated with conceptual art, nihilism, and Fluxus. 

Flynt’s work devolves from what he calls cognitive nihilism, a concept he developed and first announced in the 1960 and 1961 drafts of a paper called Philosophy Proper. The 1961 draft was published in Milan with other early work in his book Blueprint for a Higher Civilization.  Flynt refined these dispensations in the essay Is There Language? that was published as Primary Study in 1964.

In 1961, Flynt coined the term "concept art" in the neo-dada, proto-Fluxus book An Anthology of Chance Operations (co-published with La Monte Young). Concept art, Flynt maintained, devolved from cognitive nihilism, from insights about the vulnerabilities of logic and mathematics. Drawing on an exclusively syntactical paradigm of logic and mathematics, concept art was meant to supersede both mathematics and the formalistic music then current in serious art music circles. Therefore, Flynt held, to merit the label "concept art," a work had to be an object-critique of logic or mathematics or objective structure.

Because of his friendship and collaboration with La Monte Young, Flynt sometimes gets linked to Fluxus. While Flynt himself describes Fluxus as his "publisher of last resort" (Flynt did permit Fluxus to publish his work, and took part in several Fluxus exhibitions), he claims no affiliation or interest in the Fluxus sensibility.  In fact, he is a strong critic of the neo-Dada sensibility.

In 1962, Flynt began an anti-art campaign.  He demonstrated against cultural institutions in New York City (such as MoMA and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts) in 1963 and against the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen twice in 1964.  Flynt wanted avant-garde art to become superseded by the terms of "veramusement" and "brend" - neologisms meaning pure recreation. 

Flynt is also known for his musical work that attempts to fuse avant-garde music (particularly the hypnotic aspects of minimalism) with free jazz, country blues, rock, and hillbilly music.  

Raga Electric: Experimental Music 1963-1971 is an anthology of Flynt's most challenging avant-garde work that includes Raga Electric (1966) and Free Alto (1964).  In 1966, Flynt recorded several demo tapes with The Insurrections, a folk-rock garage band, which were later compiled and released as I Don't Wanna in 2004.

His first CD release was You Are My Everlovin'/Celestial Power (1981), above, initiating the "New American Ethnic Music" or NAEM series.  Reviewing the CD in, Eugene Chadbourne writes:
This double CD set came packaged in a clear case with almost no information about its creator, other than the concert recording dates and the vague promise of "New American Ethnic Music." Linked with figures such as Yoko Ono and La Monte Young, and briefly a member of both the Velvet Underground and the Fluxus art movement, Flynt eventually retired from music for a career in philosophy. Beginning in the early '60s and ending roughly two decades later, Flynt's musical odyssey was most certainly connected to "Old American Ethnic Music" in that there are seemingly endless references to hillbillies, hoedowns, white lightning, cowboys, and even lonesome train dreams. He was playing so-called "hillbilly electronic music" in 1975, and Flynt's vision of such a phenomenon is not the Charlie Daniels Band by any means. The two pieces featured on this set each takes up a full CD. "Celestial Power" was recorded in 1980, while "You Are My Everlovin'" comes from about a year later and was taped live at a New York City avant-garde music performance space. Flynt's style on the violin is original and distinct, and these are virtuoso performances technically as well as in terms of concentration and focused energy. The earlier show is more of a drone, complete with Indian-style backgrounds.

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