In a year when the boundaries between art and everything else continued to become increasingly porous and open to potential, followers of music adjacent to art (and vice versa) had a lot to appreciate. Historical examples have survived to show that the past was in many ways even more open and adventurous than the present, and then some contemporary events have suggested that we still have a lot to look forward to in the future. Attached are some of the most valuable artistic music (and musical art) offers of 2021.
The velvet metro
Todd Haynes’ impressionistic documentary about the Velvet Underground multimedia incubation station did a conscientious job of showing how the band was more than just a band. The music they made still puzzles how unique it was, and in many ways continues to be. But Haynes also impressively stepped back to show the group’s prismatic practice in a wider field. Concerts with light shows as inventive as the music they conjured up and live soundtracks for spazz of all kinds at Andy Warhol’s factory were all part of the world of the Velvet Underground – and what a world it is. was.
Don + Moki Cherry with blank forms
The formidable life-art partnership between Don and Moki Cherry was the subject of an exhibition in a jewelry gallery in Brooklyn as well as a 500-page book full of research and interpretation of an intermedia practice that included Don’s expansive jazz and Moki’s visions in paintings, textiles, and more. Both were the work of Blank Forms, a traveling curatorial platform that opened both a gallery and a performance space this year, promising much more to come.
Fred Moten at Festival Vision
The first gig I saw after more than a year of craving for live musical experiences was a special night at the long-running Vision Festival, which this year took over Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. All Vision Festival nights are special, but this night, celebrating the festival’s 25th year, featured excellent group interaction with Fly or Die and the David Murray Octet Revival, as well as a premier trio with bassist Brendon Lopez, drummer Gerald Cleaver and great Fred Moten. Many in the art world know Moten for his extensive writing in catalogs and publications of various types, but his incarnation on stage harnessed his distant poet mind by reading verses that seemed to be a mixture of improvisations and drafts. ‘invocations of words that have been waiting to be spoken / sung for far too long.
Jónsi at the Tanya Bonakdar gallery
As the lead singer and sometimes guitarist of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, Jónsi has made a wealth of otherworldly music since his appearance in the late 1990s. But he has taken a big step forward as a performer. a different genre this year with a gallery show in New York at Tanya Bonakdar, a gallery that first exhibited her work in Los Angeles in 2019. The sculptures communicated with sound, as did the murals that could be called paintings (with speakers hidden under their surfaces). And most of it was infused with Jónsi’s scents, creating a multisensory experience that won’t be soon forgotten.
Sun Ra poetry books by Corbett vs. Dempsey
Few cultural figures of any kind deserve such close attention as that given to interstellar jazz visionary Sun Ra, who still deserves to be better known to all of us. The gallery of Chicago Corbett vs. Dempsey contributed to the service of this by organizing an exhibition and publishing four books of poetry by Ra (Jazz by Sun Ra, Jazz in silhouette, The immeasurable equation, and Extensions Out: The Immeasurable Equation Vol. II) in facsimile editions that have preserved the local, artisanal way in which he published some of the most distant ideas of his time or any other.
La Monte Young Reissue Bonanza
The number of certified and accessible (read: non-pirated or long out of print) recordings of La Monte Young available to the minimalism-inclined audience has increased by several percent this year, starting with several flagship works being rolled out digitally. on Bandcamp and, earlier this month, with a 4 LP vinyl box set released by the Dia Art Foundation in homage to Young’s composition in 1958 String trio. The opportunity to hear Young’s music, especially his monumental The well-tuned piano in the magenta lights “87 V 10 6: 43: 00 PM – 87 V 11 1: 07: 45 AM NYC”—In hi-fi form is a real blessing.
We have lost many fertile musical minds this year, too many to pay proper tribute. But some of the toughest of the tough news came early in January when it became known that electronic music creator and muse Sophie died in an accident in Greece at the age of 34. Milford Tombs passed away in February, aged 79 – and amid much deserved attention from the art world around exhibitions of his work at ICA Philadelphia and at the Artists Space in New York. And December was particularly gloomy, as the avant-garde composer Alvin lucier has passed away at age 90 (anyone who has not yet heard their soundtrack / text I am sitting in a room should do so as soon as possible), and Greg Tate increased to 64 (the editors of ARTnews been fortunate enough to publish Tate on occasion in recent years). Make way for lives well lived and all kinds of influences that remain to be manifested.