PRINT October 2009


Source Records 1–6

Cover of Source: Music of the Avant Garde 6 (July 1969). Dick Higgins, “The Thousand Symphonies.”

IF WE COME TO A MUSICAL SCORE with rigid ideas of what is required for its interpretation—years of practice, a concert hall, black tie—to whom can we ascribe these notions? The score may specify an instrument to be played, notes to play on it, and (an approximate) tempo. But anything else is—like Oral Law to the written Torah—precisely what is not in the text. The score on its own remains an invitation: to inhabit it, and make of it what you will.

The magazine Source: Music of the Avant Garde worked to place that invitation directly in its readers’ hands. Published under the direction of composer Larry Austin from 1967 to 1973, its eleven spiral-bound issues were packed with projects—a veritable Whole Earth Catalog for radical sound communities. These compendiums of verbal, graphic, and more traditionally notated scores bypassed the usual intermediary of music publishers, allowing

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