THE ONCE FESTIVAL AND HOW IT HAPPENED
[published in Arts in Society, Madison WI Vol. IV No 2, 1967. Minor revisions, August 1970]
Except for New York City or perhaps Los Angeles, the serious cultural endeavor of America is centered in its university and college communities. Question any creative artist about his access to the nourishment of a cultural-community, and he will tell you just about the same thing. Either he sells in New York, or he has a teaching job.
The primary bases of support of the creative artist are commerce and pedagogy. Patronage, which in past eras might have been a separate category, has generally disappeared within commerce and pedagogy. In commerce, bluntly, the artist must sell; in pedagogy he must teach or "research".
Patronage, public and private, once had some sense of freewheeling benevolence about it. Private patronage today tends to be an investment in the increased future value of an artist's present work. Foundation patronage today is largely under the administration of the universities, and thus is often directed as an investment in the future teaching potential of the artist.
The idea of patronage in past "golden eras" of art was more far-reaching than mere investment in an individual artist. It was investment in a whole "scene", in an community of artistic and social endeavor. Today many artists receive foundation or institutional patronage on an individual basis, often to enable them precisely to escape that community in which they otherwise work. Travel is broadening, and unquestionably there are occasions in which this escape saves the creative artist from complete atrophy. But consider whether the premise for this escape-oriented support might be misplaced. Consider the possibility that the creative artist might be better off if the financial support of individual escape were invested instead in nourishment of the "scene".
The historical example in which creative artists were maintained to enhance, even glorify, the reputation of their supporting patrons was an extremely viable basis for artistic patronage. It was certainly responsible for those golden eras which still elicit nostalgia from many critics. Further, the best attributes of this historical example are also the healthiest aspects of the present-day commercial and pedagogical bases of artistic endeavor.
What I consider healthy and unhealthy about these various bases of cultural support, as well as an outline of a specific example of community artistic endeavor outside these bases, is the reason for this article on the ONCE FESTIVAL and how it happened.
The ONCE FESTIVAL happened because a community of artists took matters into their own hands. They extended their responsibilities beyond the limits of producing their art into the organization and promotion of their art before the public. In this process they simultaneously took advantage of the means of commerce, private and public patronage, and pedagogy. But for the most part they did this outside of the established avenues of artistic commerce, pedagogy and patronage.
The necessity for working outside the established ways was inherent in the situation. The artists involved were of different disciplines: composers, painters, filmmakers, writers, sculptors, and architects. Their common ground was that they all lived in Ann Arbor. Being hundreds of miles from New York City, the avenue of commerce was basically inaccessible. Though a few were employed in teaching at the University of Michigan, virtually all efforts at enlisting support from this institution precipitated resistance and animosity to the project. Applications and contacts with numerous foundations, continuously for more than six years, produced no responses beyond a growing file of polite, through sometimes enthusiastic, fine-bond, raised-letterhead replies.
The initial group of artists included composers Robert Ashley, George Cacioppo, Gordon Mumma, Roger Reynolds, Donald Scavarda, and Bruce Wise; architects Harold Borkin and Joseph Wehrer; filmmaker George Manupelli; and painter-sculptors Mary Ashley and Milton Cohen. These artists had worked, independently and together, on various projects in Ann Arbor from early 1957, including Milton Cohen's "Space Theatre", the Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music, and the production of several films.
In 1960, at the suggestion of poet Keith Waldrop, the group decided to produce a festival of concerts of new music. Concerts require an audience and performers, thus the festival needed financial backing for publicity and the hiring of musicians. Robert Ashley and Roger Reynolds approached a local organization, the Dramatic Arts Center. Though of modest financial means, the Dramatic Arts Center, under the directorship of the mathematician Wilfrid Kaplan, had provided the auspices for several years of repertory theatre and experimental film programs in Ann Arbor. They were immediately interested in the festival proposal, and approved the concerts for February of their 1960-1961 season.
The festival consisted of four concerts on two consecutive weekends. The opening concert featured members of the Domaine Musical Ensemble of Paris with Luciano Berio and Cathy Berberian. The second concert was chamber music by members of the ONCE group. The third concert presented Paul Jacobs in a recital of "classical" piano music of the serial era, and the final concert consisted of large ensemble pieces by ONCE composers. All four concerts were recorded for broadcast by educational FM radio. The audiences were near capacity, a result we attributed to intensive pre-festival publicity as much as to the inherent glamour of the festival itself. The cost of the festival was $1,200. The ticket sales amounted to $1,100. The Dramatic arts Center, whose sole financial resources depended on memberships for each yearly season, made up the difference.
Financial considerations aside, the festival was certainly an artistic success. Even before the final concert was completed the audience was asking about the likelihood of another such festival, making it an annual event. The name ONCE indicates that this possibility had not been among our original considerations. Before the summer of 1961 plans were underway for a second ONCE Festival.
Again the Dramatic Arts Center offered their support. The second festival was scheduled for February and March of 1962, included six concerts, and was again recorded in its entirety. The 1962 ONCE Festival cost more money and lost more money. But both the attendance and the scope of the programming were greater.
Now, however, there was some dispute about its artistic success. A ferocious controversy followed the second evening: a concert presented by La Monte Young and Terry Jennings. Artistic controversy in the cultural hinterlands is not unlike religious controversy in the southern Appalachian mountains. Argument about this particular concert still continues in Ann Arbor, years after the actual event.
The sum of the controversy, the ever burgeoning audiences, and the creative momentum which now gripped the ONCE artists, made a third ONCE Festival imperative. In February and March of 1963 four concerts were presented. The name ONCE remained. Considerations of changing the name from ONCE to TWICE to THRICE, or to ONCE AGAIN, had all but ceased. In quiet moments we collected the puns which were offered: ONCE TOO OFTEN, ONCE IS ENOUGH, SO WHO ONCE IT, and so forth.
The fourth ONCE Festival was the most grandiose. Eight concerts were presented in six days of February 1964. The guest ensembles were the Judson Dance Theatre, the Brandeis University Chamber Chorus, and the Bob James Trio with Eric Dolphy (his last American performance). The ONCE Chamber Ensemble was expanded to 30 performers and presented three concerts of their own. The entire budget for the 1964 ONCE Festival was less than $4,000, and the loss, this time of $2,400, was again assumed by the Dramatic Arts Center.
For the 1964 festival the publicity created as much controversy as the music. Mary Ashley designed an accordion-folded, purple and white flyer that featured on one side the enormously detailed programs. On the other side was a photograph of the composers Ashley, Cacioppo, Scavarda, and myself, looking like the Mafia in drag, standing behind a voluptuous nude reclining on the lunch counter of a well-known local eatery called "Red's Rite Spot".
The appearance of this flyer created a small hysteria, and the Dramatic Arts Center called an emergency meeting. Suggestions that the flyer be withdrawn were overcome: the ultimate problem was obtaining further funds for reprinting it to meet the demand for souvenir copies. The extent of this flyer's success was indicated to me dramatically in New York City the following April. At the seminar following one of Max Polikoff's "Music in our Time" concerts, on which Ashley and I had just performed, the first question from the audience concerned the availability of autographed copies of the purple ONCE flyer.
The fifth ONCE Festival consisted of four concerts, in February 1965, that included Lucas Foss and an ensemble of Creative Associates from the State University of New York at Buffalo; an ensemble of New York musicians David Behrman, Philip Corner, Malcolm Goldstein, and Max Neuhaus; a lecture by critic and author Peter Yates, and the ONCE ensemble. This was the last ONCE Festival presented during February and March of each year.
In September 1965 a sixth festival was produced, called ONCE AGAIN. ONCE AGAIN was presented on the amphitheatre-like roof on a municipal parking garage in Ann Arbor, and included an ensemble from the Judson Dance Theatre, a concert by John Cage and David Tudor, and the tour ensemble of the ONCE Group. (The ONCE Group is the formal name of a contemporary arts ensemble formed in 1963 for presentation on tour, independent of Dramatic Arts Center auspices.)
This sixth festival signaled important changes in certain aspects of the ONCE activities in Ann Arbor. Because the parking-structure roof was much larger than the indoor concert spaces used for the previous ONCE Festivals, and because the local audience had not yet felt the pressure of cultural activities which saturate Ann Arbor in the Spring, ONCE AGAIN drew enormous standing-room crowds. In fact, audiences were more than twice the size of any previous entire ONCE Festival. For the first time ONCE was able to return money to the Dramatic Arts Center. Further, the pressure of ONCE Group engagements elsewhere during the Spring concert season began to make the organization of a festival in Ann Arbor at that time increasingly difficult. Thus, it was clear that future festivals would be more feasible in the Fall than in the Spring.
In summary, 29 concerts of new music were presented during six ONCE Festivals, including 67 premiere performances out of a total of 215 works by 88 contemporary composers. I have used the words "music" and "composers" here since music was the predominant aspect of the ONCE Festivals. Experimental films, modern dance, theatre, and intermedia productions were also part of the programming. Because of the intensive activity in new cinema during the past decade, the annual Ann Arbor Film Festival was organized in 1962, and films then only occurred on the ONCE Festival in intermedia contexts. Theatre and modern dance became increasingly prominent with each ONCE Festival.
Keith Waldrop simply wanted to hear some new music, particularly by his composer friends in Ann Arbor. In following his suggestion to produce our own concerts, the initial motives of the composers themselves were not much more farsighted. But during the next six years our motives broadened considerably, and thus the character and significance of the ONCE Festival expanded.
Ann Arbor is a university town in the Midwestern United States. Without the university it would be as culturally isolated and inactive as most communities distant from New York City. Because of the university, Ann Arbor is, at least in certain respects, a cultural oasis.
But the ONCE Festival had to happen IN SPITE of the university. The university community was neglecting certain responsibilities. The problem, simply, was that in spite of considerable effort within the university for years previous to the ONCE Festival, it had been impossible to establish the precedent of performing contemporary music as routine activity of the community. There was no lack of attention to the classics: Ann Arbor is noted in this respect. But posing the rhetorical question "whose music did the classical composers perform?" brought only silent embarrassment for an answer.
In retrospect it is difficult for me to understand why it had not occurred to us, previous to Keith Waldrop's suggestion, to produce our own concerts. We had assumed that only two avenues to this accomplishment were possible: by means of academic support, or by braving the hassle in New York. We were not an institution, but merely a diverse group of artists, and thus foundation patronage was out of the question.
Part of the preamble to the Dramatic Arts Center reads "...to encourage important but little-known developments in the arts, including experimental creation in drama, music, films and other media...". Because this was so similar to the stated purposes of the many foundations from which we had received polite rejections, we missed an essential difference. The Dramatic Arts Center was part of our immediate community rather than an impersonal monolith from elsewhere. This is extremely important for creative artists who wish to accomplish something of their own without going into exile, or submitting to excessive depersonalization.
After enlisting the support of the Dramatic Arts Center we set to work at programming the first ONCE Festival. Almost intuitively we sensed that if the scope of this programming was broad enough we might avoid some of the harassment of our detractors. We discovered that the broader we made the spectrum of programming the greater the controversy that followed. However, by maintaining a broad spectrum we could take greater risks with individual works and performers, and at the same time avoid trivial arguments about what was proper and pertinent. Everything became a risk worth taking.
When so much music is presented in so short a time, the audience can't attend everything. So it was still necessary to reassure the person who attended a ONCE Festival concert of relatively conservative new music and thereafter complained that ONCE was reactionary. It was necessary to argue with the person who attended a single concert of extreme innovation thereafter to complain that ONCE was too radical. When such extremes were combined on a single concert the complaint was that ONCE was too eclectic, or worse, disorganized.
The audiences continued to grow, in size as well as diversity. Performance and rehearsals space became a problem. For the first two ONCE Festivals the small auditorium of the First Unitarian Church was rented. The combination of rehearsals and concerts eventually became an imposition on the church activities, so the third ONCE Festival was presented in the meeting hall of the Ann Arbor Community Center. A still larger space became necessary, and for the fourth and fifth festivals the local VFW Hall was engaged. For a cultural oasis it is curious that, except for the Community Center meeting room, Ann Arbor had no civic auditorium or performance space. The university and public school systems have too little space even to accommodate their own activities. Thus, for the sixth festival, ONCE AGAIN, the city council was petitioned for use of a municipal parking garage. As trivial as it may seem, suitable space was the second most complicated problem of the ONCE Festival.
The most complicated problem was money. I mentioned that the entire budget for the 1964 festival was less than $4,000. This was the largest budget for any of the six festivals. Remember that the 1964 festival was eight concerts, and included four guest ensembles. Those guest ensembles totaled more than fifty performers who traveled better than 500 miles to perform on the festival.
Obviously it cost more than $4,000 to produce the 1964 ONCE Festival. The two guest university ensembles subsidized a substantial portion of their own costs. The remaining guest performers agreed to participate for their travel and accommodations costs. Local union musicians were paid basic scale, and nearly everyone else contributed their services. The remaining costs were publicity, rental of space and equipment, and publisher's fees.
All six festivals were run on this "cost" basis. It is no longer a sufficient basis to continue the festival. Everyone who contributed time and effort to ONCE considered it as a cause, the good cause of establishing a viable contemporary performance arts activity. After six years the ONCE Festival came to the point where it's viability required a more professional financial basis. If for no other reason it became quite impractical and rather embarrassing to ask performers to choose between playing on ONCE for "cost" or elsewhere for more adequate remuneration. But the ONCE Festival did establish the precedent of paying for the performance of new music in Ann Arbor.
Efforts were also applied to the propagation of the festival beyond the immediate community. All of the concerts were recorded on tape for educational FM broadcasting and distribution overseas. The tapes of the festivals still enjoy an active re-broadcast schedule. The concerts received a fair measure of attention in the press, considering that journalistic attention to unusual cultural activities outside of New York City is minimal. It is curious that more press attention was given to ONCE internationally than locally, perhaps an indication of some remaining apathetic provincialism.
For at least two of the festivals the absence of the local press was an outright avoidance of "controversy". It was a multi-issued controversy that extended beyond the music itself, and at times effected the morale of the festival participants. Part of the problem was small-town professional jealousy, an issue of little concern except to the easily paranoid.
A distinct feeling of resistance developed from the University School of Music community, to some extent because following the first ONCE Festival a contemporary music series was finally organized under university auspices. But I suspect the problem was due more to a real sense of alienation, from the academic musical scene, which enveloped the students who participated in or attended the ONCE Festival.
Discussion and argument between the students and their teachers disrupted classroom schedules for weeks surrounding each ONCE Festival. For some of the student performers ONCE became an extra-curricular activity which almost completely usurped their attention to academic endeavor. At the time of the 1964 ONCE Festival there was a nearly unanimous boycott of the festival concerts by the School of Music faculty, and pressure applied to the music students to do likewise, on grounds that such activities were everything from immoral to academically and culturally disreputable. This student-faculty alienation was increased to absurdity by the participation of two ensembles from rival academic institutions on this very ONCE Festival.
The "official" resistance which developed was hardly more than a minor problem. I mention it for its sociological significance -- it courses parallel to the social and political alienation from their time which affects many students in the United States -- and as a reminder that problems and accomplishments always coexist in experimental ventures.
Two further achievements of the ONCE Festival were not at first among our motives, but we very quickly recognized and encourage their presence. The first of these was the example of community-based contemporary arts activity for other communities. The ONCE Festival supplied impetus to similar projects which followed in Seattle (the New Dimensions in Music), Toronto (The Isaacs Gallery series), and Tucson (the New Arts Workshop), to name just a few.
Secondly, the ONCE Festival assisted in decentralizing the focus of contemporary performance activities from the excessively strong base which it has held in New York City. This dominant centralization is one of the most detrimental aspects of culture in America. The means of communication and propagation concerning the arts existed almost entirely in New York. The creative artist outside of New York has been excluded from these means, and isolated from the healthy feedback he would experience with more diversified communications.
Fortunately, even the foundations have realized the unhealthy character of this quasi-totalitarianism, and have financially encouraged some large-scale cultural ventures elsewhere. The contribution of the ONCE Festival in this respect is towards the decentralization of contemporary arts endeavors outside the premises of commerce, pedagogy, and foundation patronage: within the modest means of community support.
The ONCE Festival did not happen in isolation from its environment. It was but one of numerous activities which shaped the cultural profile of the community. Those activities extended from the graphic arts to the performance realm, and included several thriving collaborations.
One of those collaborations was the light-sculpture-theatre called, at various times "Manifestations: Light and Sound" and "Space Theatre". This project included artist Milton Cohen, architect Harold Borkin, filmmaker George Manupelli, and the composers Robert Ashley and myself. Public performances were underway in early 1957 and developed into the elaborate "Teatro dello Spazio" productions presented by the group in Italy on the 1966 Venezia Biennale.
The Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music was organized by Robert Ashley and myself, early in 1958, to provide specially composed music for the Space Theatre productions, and sound tracks for the films of George Manupelli. The studio developed in several directions, supplying music for other independent filmmakers and for commercial films, and designing unique "cybersonic" equipment for concert electronic music with live performance.
The Performance Arts Research Laboratory Conference was organized (in 1963) by Robert Ashley, Harold Borkin and Joseph Wehrer. Presented under the auspices of the College of Architecture and Design, the conference brought representatives from all aspects of the performance arts to Ann Arbor for an intensive exchange of ideas. This exchange was edited into a large document for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
The Ann Arbor Film Festival was a direct outgrowth of the ONCE Festival. Ultimately co-sponsored by the Dramatic Arts Center and the Student Cinema Guild, and under the direction of George Manupelli, festivals of experimental films have been presented on an annual basis since 1963. The prize-winning films of this festival are distributed on a collaborative basis to more than a dozen other American film festivals, and ultimately reach an audience of nearly 100,000 people within the span of a few months.
Contemporary music concert activity was extended throughout the year by the presentation and recording of individual ONCE Friends concerts. In response to many requests from private groups and colleges, several tour ensembles were organized for concerts and performances outside of Ann Arbor. One series of 14 concerts was called "New Music for Pianos", another was a series of lecture- demonstrations in the performance arts and, of course, the touring performance ensemble of The ONCE Group.
The ONCE Group is an intermedia performance ensemble. Productions include works of the individual performing artists in the ensemble, from new music to experimental film. But the predominant activity has been theatrically oriented. Large-scale intermedia works are both composed and produced on a collaborative basis. These works exploit the resources of music, film, television, sculpture, modern dance, electronically manipulated sound and light projection, theatre and environment. Since 1963 the ONCE Group has given numerous performances on tour in the United States, with a repertoire of ten original collaborative works, and was invited as the United States representative to the 1965 Biennale de Sao Paulo in Brazil.
With the exception of three small research grants to the Space Theatre, the Dramatic Arts Center sponsorship of the ONCE Festival and the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Performance Arts Research Laboratory, these activities were entirely self-supporting.
I have indicated something of the significance of the ONCE Festival in the immediate community of Ann Arbor, and how ONCE and its related activities developed beyond that immediate community. But I have neglected the effect of this activity on the individual creative artists.
At the outset the majority of artists in the ONCE environment were musicians, specifically composers. Music composition is undisputedly the creative endeavor that is least likely to enable an artist to survive. In the United States particularly, the spectacle of isolated and unknown composers filing their unperformed manuscripts into rarely opened storage is downright pathetic.
The institutions of musical performance -- the orchestras and instrumental ensembles, the musical societies, and the academies -- are largely to blame. These institutions are generally uninterested in composers of their own time because they are deterred by the risks of performing contemporary music. Contemporary music is reputed to be bad for the box-office, which means, presumably, that the public isn't interested either. Part of the blame belongs with the public, which has lost sight of why they have any music to enjoy in the first place. And part of the blame is with the composers themselves, many of whom have avoided the challenge to explore beyond the established performance opportunities and create institutions more pertinent to their own time.
Under these conditions the morale of the isolated composer can be very low indeed. The only economically realistic choices for the composer are to teach composition in a university, be born wealthy and develop skill in the stock market, or abandon composition as a means of livelihood. Teaching composition is not as aesthetically attractive as it might seem: it has the kiss of creative death about it. It is a remarkable statistic that practically no one who has attained significance as a composer in the 20th Century has taught as a steady vocation in an academic institution.
But the fact that there are some serious composers flourishing in this century, who were not born wealthy, indicates another alternative. The flourishing 20th Century composers share much the same basis as their counterparts in previous eras. They receive the nourishment of sustained involvement in an active and artistically challenging cultural-community.
For some of the artists in Ann Arbor the ONCE activities were nothing short of Renaissance. The stylistic, technical, and artistic growth of composers George Cacioppo, Robert Ashley, and Donald Scavarda, for instance, was profound. The opportunities for performance of their music previous to the ONCE Festival existed only on rare University of Michigan concerts, or when the composers traveled to distant academies. The infrequency of performance under these conditions was little enough motivation to continue. The lack of exposure to a broad public audience, inherent in the academic atmosphere, was deleterious. I would suggest that the individuality and maturity of these composer's works would never have developed without the access to the broader public for which the ONCE-oriented activities were responsible.
Further, the confrontation of these composers with innovative performance arts other than music encouraged them to explore not only new and practical applications for their musical creativity, but to extend their talents into untried media. Robert Ashley, for instance, now spends a fruitful portion of his energies in the issues of experimental theatrical production. Donald Scavarda composes not only with sound, but had developed specials means of film-composition with visual materials. My own work has extended to include the development of live-electronic performance means of music.
Whatever began as fanciful speculation was rapidly put to the test of immediate application in public performance. On occasion this procedure drew criticism about the propriety of confronting paying audiences with crackpot experiments. Yet this simultaneous operation of innovation and pragmatism proved to be a very sure way to produce valid and dynamic artistic results.
The impact of the creative momentum, which increased from festival to festival, was sometimes really invigorating. It supercharged the progress of certain composers in particular. The works which George Cacioppo composed from 1961 to 1966, for instance, each took greater risks than their predecessors, yet each was incontrovertibly more successful.
One of Cacioppo's prime achievements was the exploitation of radical sound- producing procedures within an ensemble context. The faithful performers of the ONCE Festival musical ensembles, having shared in the composer's progressive ideas right from the first festival, eagerly awaited each new Cacioppo composition. Even through each successive work was more technically difficult, the performers rapidly integrated Cacioppo's expanding musical vocabulary into their own. As a result, even though the festivals were often plagued with insufficient rehearsal time, a high percentage of exemplary performances were obtained.
It is tempting to cite what were for me the most exciting moments of the ONCE Festivals. I would have to mention the apogee-like sequence of concerts in the fourth ONCE Festival on which Ashley's symphony IN MEMORIAM CRAZY HORSE, Cacioppo's orchestral-choral ADVANCE OF THE FUNGII, my own live-electronic- performance MEGATON FOR WILLIAM BURROUGHS, and Scavarda's chambermusic-cinema integration LANDSCAPE JOURNEY were premiered. The following festival was propinquitous with Cacioppo's chamber-ensemble TIME ON TIME IN MIRACLES, Mary Ashley's theatre-spectacle JELLO MAN, and John Cage's melodrama VARIATIONS IV. A long-playing recording has been issued which includes several of these works in their premiere concert performances.*
With the environmental activities the productive momentum also had a telling effect. Creative endeavors on a collaborative basis by artists of different disciplines are notoriously fraught with disaster, and rarely survive but the shortest time. Yet the ONCE Group not only thrived under this productive momentum, but even bypassed that persistent problem of morale in assigning a name to the source of the creative responsibility. Each artist is content to acknowledge that a collaborative production is by "The ONCE Group".
There is some question in my mind whether the momentum of cultural-community which developed in the ONCE environment could have occurred with a different financial and social basis. With ONCE there was always an insufficient amount of money; important aspects of production were neglected as a result. But the support of the community itself, as modest as it was, was at least direct and immediate. Money obtained from large and distant foundations that have no real and personal commitment within the community tends to be accompanied by hyper-institutionalization. The ill effects of this were avoided. There was no delay in obtaining money which, when finally received, would be dissipated in considerable part to the "overhead" of institutionalized administration.
The financial assistance which the ONCE Festival received from the Dramatic Arts Center was available when it was most needed. There are times in a cultural-community when the situation is ripe for action, when the coincidence of the right people in the right place at the right time is at hand. Because of the immediate response of the Dramatic Arts Center, ONCE was spared the fate of similar project in another part of the United States which, because of years of delay, had virtually disintegrated by the time support was finally received from a foundation on the opposite coast.
I have belabored the subject of financial support not only because money for artistic purposes is a necessity, but also to establish the critical nature of where it comes from. Money from academic institutions is problematical because the nourishment of the contemporary arts too rarely fits within their concept of pedagogical function. Money from the large foundations is, presently, encumbered by deleterious inefficiency. Finally, money from a commerce of art will not happen until a broad and substantial commerce is established on a decentralized basis pertinent to our time. The establishment of such a commerce is predicated on the existence of a viable, widespread cultural-community, and this responsibility lies mostly with the individual communities.
Whatever the source, money lavished on an artist or two, now and then, is hardly sufficient to create a cultural-community. Culture-community is contingent on sustained investment in the entire scene. The examples of history are so decisive that argument is unnecessary. Golden eras result from investment in a broad cultural spectrum (this was the healthiest aspect of the competitive imperial patronage of past centuries). Hundreds of artists must be nourished without premature question of their ultimate potential. This is at once the riskiest and most potent kind of investment.
The production of once-a-year events would not have been sufficient spark for the creative momentum in Ann Arbor. The requirement of such a scene is a continuous pressure of diverse and even opposing activities. In its most mundane terms it may be a sequence of relentless deadlines which the artist must meet for the production and propagation of his work. At times in Ann Arbor we scheduled concerts for presentation with as little as a few weeks notice, for which many of the works to be introduced were not yet completed, and some had not even been conceived. The slightest indication that a composer was thinking of making a new work was enough for us to take action. There were occasions when the person responsible for the production and publicity of a concert would simply fabricate a title for another composer's not-yet-conceived work. Some of the best compositions resulted from this breakneck scheme. At worst, a composer might have time only to revise and improve upon a previous work, in order not to have his name eliminated altogether from the program at the last minute. Very few composers elsewhere at the time had the blessed opportunity to make revisions and improvements in a previous piece with an assured second performance.
The continual search for appropriate performance space also contributed to the dynamism of the scene. Some of the spaces we obtained were far afield of the traditional concert-hall format. It was necessary then for the composers to consider implications of the presentation of their work with which they are not usually confronted. This problem alone has been one of the most germinal forces in the production of the ONCE Group, and offers a partial explanation of the architectural auspices of the Performance Arts Research Laboratory Conference.
I have been liberal in my use of the terms 'artistic nourishment" and "cultural-community". It is a rare creative artist who survives, or even attempts to work, in isolation from the world. Artists require audiences as well as a community of other artists. An artist has little function or self-justification without the exercise of his means of expression or communication with an audience. The artist develops and the audience develops because of this exercise.
The greatest nourishment for the artist comes from the cultural-community in which he lives, not only because that community unity is the consumer of his art, but because it reflects back to him much of the basis for his own artistic insights. Likewise, the greatest nourishment for the cultural community comes from the artists who, living within that community, have immediate access to the means of shaping its cultural potential.
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* Advance FGR-5. The recording includes Robert Ashley's IN MEMORIAM CRAZY HORSE, George Cacioppo's TIME ON TIME IN MIRACLES, Gordon Mumma's MUSIC FOR THE VENEZIA SPACE THEATRE, and Donald Scavarda's LANDSCAPE JOURNEY.
Gordon Mumma: THE ONCE FESTIVAL AND HOW IT HAPPENED