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Connecting with the Cosmic: Arthur Russell, Rhizomatic Musicianship, and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92

By Tim Lawrence

Abstract

During the 1970s and early 1980s, a diverse group of artists, musicians, sculptors, video filmmakers and writers congregated in downtown New York and forged a radical creative network. Distinguished by its level of interactivity, the network discarded established practices in order to generate new, often-interdisciplinary forms of art that melded aesthetics and community. “All these artists were living and working in an urban geographical space that was not more than twenty-by-twenty square blocks,” notes Marvin J. Taylor, editor of The Downtown Book. “Rarely has there been such a condensed and diverse group of artists in one place at one time, all sharing many of the same assumptions about how to make new art.” It was, in short, a remarkable period in the history of orchestral and popular music in terms of aesthetic innovation and social relations as well as the way in which creativity and sociality are bound together. Arthur Russell, I argue in this essay, was not only a representative product of the downtown music scene, but also that his interactions with a range of musicians, scenes, spaces and technologies marked out the network’s radical potential

Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:roar.uel.ac.uk:744

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