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Red StrainsMusic and Communism Outside the Communist Bloc$
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Robert Adlington

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265390

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265390.001.0001

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On Music and Politics

On Music and Politics

Henry Cow, Avant-Gardism and its Discontents

(p.55) 6 On Music and Politics
Red Strains

Georgina Born

British Academy

Reflecting analytically on the practices of the avant-garde socialist rock group Henry Cow and their aftermath, this chapter argues for an expanded account of the multiple mediations of music and politics. Such an account would take account of at least five distinctive orders of musical practice and their non-linear conjunction, each potentially the basis of a politics: first, animating or building alliances with wider political and social movements; second, the politics of music's institutional forms, evident in Henry Cow's practices of self-organisation and self-management, its creation of new labels, performance and distribution networks; third, the politics of the social relations of the performance ensemble, of rehearsal and of the performance event; fourth, the politics of musical materials; and fifth, the politics of lyric writing. What we see in Henry Cow, however imperfectly realised, is a concerted attempt to orchestrate multiple dimensions and forms of political invention and experimentation.

Keywords:   politics, Henry Cow, performance, avant-garde

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