This stylistically diverse genre, ranging from eclecticism to post modern minimalism tempered by rock dynamics, has long existed on the experimental fringe of the progressive rock movement. It combined the philosophy of art for art's sake with the mass communication potentialities of the rock medium.
The pivotal development behind the rise of avant-garde rock was strong aesthetic posture adopted by the Beatles--then the most popular music act in the world--with the release of Rubber Soul in late 1965. The album represented a turning point in rock history. For the first time, the long-playing record was viewed as a medium for making a coherent artistic statement rather than as a mere collection of singles. Furthermore, the individual tracks displayed a heightened level of songwriting sophistication. The lyrics in songs like "In My Life" and "Norwegian Wood" revealed a maturity hitherto unprecedented in rock. The refined production work by George Martin offered a dazzling array of instrumental colors and performance dynamics.
A dedicated core of musicians--both rock scene insiders and refugees from the serious music sector seeking a larger audience-- immediately took up the baton. Their aesthetic aspirations were nurtured by a slew of newly established record labels dedicated to issuing uncompromising music within the framework of small-market economics. This ethic has remained intact for more than thirty years with the avant-garde movement continuing to be enriched by the incorporation of new conceptual ideas and stylistic influences.
Top Artists and Their Recordings
Laurie Anderson--Big Science (1982); Mister Heartbreak (1984); United States Live (1984); Home of the Brave (film soundtrack;1986); Strange Angels (1989); Bright Red/Tightrope (1994); In Our Sleep EP (1995); The Ugly One With the Jewels and Other Stories (1995)
Glenn Branca--Lesson #1 EP (1980); The Ascension (1981); Music For the Dance "Bad Smells" (1982); Symphony No. 1 (1983); Symphony No. 3 (1983); Soundtrack for "The Belly of an Architect" (1987); Symphony No. 6 (Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven) (1989); The World Upside Down (1992); Symphony No. 2 (1992); Symphony Nos. 8 & 10 (1994); Symphony No. 9 (1995); Songs '77-'70 (1996); Symphony No. 5 (Describing Planes of an Expanding Hyperspere) (1996)
Joseph Byrd and the Field Hippies--The American Metphysical Circus (1969)
A Certain Ratio--The Graveyard and the Ballroom (1979); To Each (1981); Sextet (1981); I'd Like to See You Again (1982)
(Brian) Eno--Here Come the Warm Jets (1973); Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974); Another Green World (1975); Discreet Music (1975); Before and After Science (1977); Music For Films (1978); Ambient 1: Music For Airports (1979); Ambient 4: On Land (1982); Music For Films, Volume 2 (1983); Thursday Afternoon (video soundtrack; 1985)
Etron Fou LeLoublan--Les Trois Fou's Perdegagnent (au pays des....) (1977)
Robert Fripp--Live! (1986); The Lady or the Tiger (w/Toyah Willcox) (1986); Kneeling at the Shrine (w/Sunday All Over the World) (1991); Show of Hands (1991); 1999 Soundscapes Live in Argentina (1994)
Fred Frith/Henry Cow--Unrest (1974); In Praise of Learning (1975); Western Culture (1978)
Philip Glass--Einstein on the Beach (1979); The Photographer (1982)
Yoko Ono--Approximately Infinite Universe (1973); Season of Glass (1981); It's Alright (I See Rainbows) (1982); Starpeace (1985); Walking on Thin Ice (1992); Rising (w/Ima) (1995); Rising Mixes EP (1996)
Yoko Ono/John Lennon--Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968); Unifinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions (1969); Wedding Album (1969); Some Time in New York City (1972); Double Fantasy (1980); Heart Play (Unfinished Dialogue) (1983); Milk and Honey (1984)
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band--Live Peace in Toronto 1969 (1969); John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970); Fly (1971); Feeling the Space (1973)
The Raincoats--The Raincoats (1979); Odyshape (1981); The Kitchen Tapes (1983); Animal Rhapsody EP (1983); Moving (1984); Extended Play EP (1994); Fairytales (1995); Looking in the Shadows (1996)
Steve Reich--Music For 18 Musicians (1978); Desert Music (1985); Sextet/Six Marimbas (1986); Drumming (1987); Different Trains (1989)
The Residents--Meet The Residents (1974); The Residents Present the Third Reich 'n Roll (1976); Fingerprince (1976); The Residents Radio Pressure (1977); Not Available (1978); Duck Stab/Buster and Glen (1978); Babyfingers EP (1979); Eskimo (1979); Nibbles (1979); Diskomo/Goosebump EP (1980); The Residents' Commercial Album (1980); Mark of the Mole (1981); Intermission (1982); The Tunes of Two Cities (1982); The Residents Lone Show (1983); Residue of the Residents (1983); American Composer Series--Volume 1: George and James (1984); Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats (1984); Part Four of the Mole Trilogy: The Big Bubble (1985); The Census Taker (1985); PAL TV LP (1985); The American Composer's Series--Volume II: Stars and Hank Forever! (1986); The 13th Anniversary Show Live in Japan! (1986); Hit the Road Jack EP (1987); Snakeywake EP (1987); The Mole Show Live in Holland (1987); Santa Dog '88 EP (1988); God in Three Persons (1988); God in Three Pesons Soundtrack (1988); Double Shot o' My Baby's Love EP (1989); Buckaroo Blues (1989); The King & Eye (1989); Cube E: Live in Holland (1990); Liver Music (1990); Stranger Than Supper (1990); Freak Show (1990; CD-ROM version, 1995); Blowoff EP (1992); Gingerbread Man (CD-ROM; 1994); Bad Day on the Midway (CD-ROM; 1995); Hunters: The World of Predators and Prey (1995); Have a Bad Day (1996)
Terry Riley--In C (1968); A Rain bow in Curved Air (1969); Shri Camel (1980); Descending Moonshine Dervishes/Songs for the Ten Voices of the Two Prophets (1975); Cadenza on the Night Plain (w/Kronos Quartet) (1986)
Savage Republic--Tragic Figures (1983)
Univers Zero--Heresie (1979); Crawling Wind (1980); Heatwave (1990); Uzed (1991); 1313 (1992)
John Zorn--Pool/Hockey (1980); Archery (1982); Locus Solus (1983); The Big Gundown (1986)