Shuffle Boil

No. 4
Summer/Fall 2003

Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art Edited by Vincent Katz
(MIT, 2002, reprinted 2013)

Review by Steve Dickison


What a beautiful book, designed and printed in Spain to accompany a full-scale 2002-03 exhibition by same name at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.  Wonderful super-quality reproduced photos, paintings, scores, etc., a work of care thruout.  Covering music at BMC, a long illustrated essay "The Scheme of the Whole: Black Mountain and the Course of American Modern Music," by Martin Brody (President of the Stefan Wolpe Society) relays a story of early heavy magnetic influx of Euro-refugees -- reminding just how much 'alternatives' in US have been (likely still are, consider 'world music'?) as if residuals of war & crises situated elsewhere (culture spoils?).  John cage on arrival in '48 crunches the Euro-gears, conducts a Satie course & festival "to dismantle the Schoenberg cult," and gets heavily into Webern, Cage and Cunningham, the de Koonings, Rauschenberg, Bucky Fuller, M.C. Richards, Lou Harrison, David Tudor, Stefan Wolpe (plus the poets).  Utopian, idealist, 'experimental,' whatever, how did we go from there to where senses of possibility (teaching, learning) habitually get handi-wiped from the map?  Brody opens w/ "What occurred there still seems implausible," moving to close on Wolpe's fond declarative (after school was over), "I hold with a smiling eye the place in my hand."