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 Flynt wanted avant-garde art to become superseded by the terms of "veramusement" and "brend" - neologisms meaning pure recreation.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). Flynt's vision of rural roots music combined with American minimalism is further showcased in Informal Hillbilly Jive (above) from Back Porch Hillbilly Blues, Volume 2. Reviewing the album on AllMusic.com, Eugene Chadbourne writes:
Great sections of these pieces, given typical Flynt titles such as Informal Hillbilly Jive or Jamboree, really do sound like something one might have heard a fiddler playing on the porch somewhere around Mt. Airy, back in the days before SUVs started drowning them out. Especially rich with the flavor of old-timey music are the slow, reflective passages in which Flynt, an accomplished fiddler, lets the melodies play out in a way that has nothing to do with the typical quest to stir up an audience. There are of course other passages in which time simply seems to halt and a cycle of shifting repetitions begins, Flynt reaching a sonic spot that would make a typical Mt. Airy fiddler go inside to get his shotgun. Flynt's music, however, has a much stronger sense of purpose than just to play freak-out with folkies; in the same imagined scenario, the guy with the shotgun might stop to listen to something else Flynt plays while loading his weapon, then change his mind about an exchange of buckshot and go back to get his fiddle after all, this time intent on joining in.