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A Power Stronger Than Itself

The AACM and Experimental Music by George E Lewis

University of Chicago Press


Instant classic on the 'Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians' (AACM) that gave rise to The Art Ensemble of Chicago and so many great musicians. Hardback, 675 pages long, loads of pictures!


Founded in 1965 and still active today, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is an American institution with an international reputation. From its working-class roots on the South Side of Chicago, the AACM went on to forge an extensive legacy of cultural and social experimentation, crossing both musical and racial boundaries. The success of individual members and ensembles such as Muhal Richard Abrams, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Anthony Braxton has been matched by the enormous influence of the collective itself in inspiring a generation of musical experimentalists.

George E. Lewis, who joined the collective as a teenager in 1971, establishes the full importance and vitality of the AACM with this communal history, written with a symphonic sweep that draws on a cross-generational chorus of voices and a rich collection of rare images. Faced with shrinking economic opportunities in Chicago and a segregated music industry, the original members of the AACM found inspiration in the civil rights movement's call for change through self-determination and collective action.

These musicians pooled their individual strengths in a new organization powerfully committed to a forward-thinking approach to musical creation and performance. Evolving a range of experimental methods, from invented instruments and unusual musical scores to improvisation and the early use of computers, the AACM challenged the borders separating classical music and jazz. Moving from Chicago to New York to Paris, and from founding member Steve McCall's kitchen table to Carnegie Hall, "A Power Stronger Than Itself" uncovers a vibrant, multicultural universe and brings to light a major piece of the history of avant-garde music and art.

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