Monday, August 15, 2016

Hillbilly Tape Music (New American Ethnic Music Volume 3)

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  Flynt wanted avant-garde art to become superseded by the terms of "veramusement" and "brend" - neologisms meaning pure recreation.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, initiating the "New American Ethnic Music" or NAEM series, quickly followed by Spindizzy (NAEM Volume 2) and Hillbilly Tape Music (NAEM Volume 3), above.  Reviewing Hillbilly Tape Music for, Brian Olewnick writes:
Hillbilly Tape Music . . . opens with the raucous Violin Strobe, where Flynt begins with an almost Reich-like accumulation of bowed notes, swiftly coalescing into a devil's hoedown, all harshness and overtones, while never absolutely abandoning its Appalachian roots. If the remainder of the disc never quite attains these dizzying heights, there's still plenty of fine work to sink one's ears into, from the twangy reverb of Guitar Rebop to the double-tracked guitar/violin whirlwind of Jumping Wired. The final three tracks, making up about two-thirds of the disc's minutes, are a different kettle of catfish. Softer, echoing, volume pedal-drenched, the two Leather High pieces and the concluding 15-minute S&M Delerium [sic] waft by like hillbilly ambient music, flitting along like a dragonfly, making only the briefest of allusions to their source. Enjoying these pieces might require a bit of a mental shift on the part of the listener -- there's nothing very concrete or catchy to grab onto -- but if accepted on their own terms, they're quite attractive and rewarding, developing a surprising connective node between country blues and the work of New York-based conceptualists like La Monte Young.

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