Various Artists

Music from the Once Festival 1961-1966

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Held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from 1961 to 1966, the ONCE Festival was a small artist-run event that had a huge impact on American contemporary music, especially on the composers that gave it life. Robert Ashley, George Cacioppo, Gordon Mumma, Roger Reynolds, and Donald Scavarda were all in their late twenties or early thirties. The festival and its ancillary events provided the laboratory necessary for their art to blossom. The festivals and events were recorded by WUOM, the radio station of the University of Michigan. Music from the ONCE Festival draws from these recordings a little over six hours of music laid down on five CDs. Sound quality is not always prime, but generally good, and when the audience gets too noisy, it only gives us an idea of how the music was received. Highlights are numerous, bland moments too -- inevitable since the scope of esthetics is rather wide: "straightforward" contemporary classical pieces for ensemble, performance art, film music, pieces for soloist and tape, electro-acoustic music. The set gives us a chance to witness the growth of these young composers, since their works were recorded as they were written. From Ashley's piano Sonata to his Quartet, there is a whole evolution that takes us to the doorstep of his later operas. Something similar applies to Mumma's trickster pieces. David Behrman, George Crevoshay, Philip Krumm, Bruce Wise, Pauline Oliveros, and Robert Sheff (later known as "Blue" Gene Tyranny) are also represented. The latter two's contributions ("Applebox Double" and "Diotima") show how the festival had evolved from concerts of modern chamber and orchestral music, to an event open to electronic experiments and performance theater (some of the latter are pictured in the booklet). This lavish edition comes packaged in a sturdy box with a 140-page booklet containing detailed notes by the composers, and a thorough history of the festival. Impressing and imposing.

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