Tomorrow Is the Question

New Directions in Experimental Music Studies
Edited by Benjamin Piekut

Essays investigating and sparking new questions in experimental music


In recent decades, experimental music has flourished outside of European and American concert halls. The principles of indeterminacy, improvisation, nonmusical sound, and noise, pioneered in concert and on paper by the likes of Henry Cowell, John Cage, and Ornette Coleman, can now be found in all kinds of new places: activist films, rock recordings, and public radio broadcasts, not to mention in avant-garde movements around the world.

The contributors to Tomorrow Is the Question explore these previously unexamined corners of experimental music history, considering topics such as Sonic Youth, Julius Eastman, the Downtown New York pop avant-garde of the 1970s, Fluxus composer Benjamin Patterson, Tokyo’s Music group (aka Group Ongaku), the Balinese avant-garde, the Leicester school of British experimentalists, Cuba’s Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC, Pauline Oliveros’s score for the feminist documentary Maquilapolis, NPR’s 1980s RadioVisions, and the philosophy of experimental musical aesthetics.

Taken together, this menagerie of people, places, and things makes up an actually existing experimentalism that is always partial, compromised, and invented in its local and particular formations—in other words, these individual cases suggest that experimentalism has been a far more variegated set of practices and discourses than previously recognized. Asking new questions leads to researching new materials, new individuals, and new contexts and, eventually, to the new critical paradigms that are necessary to interpret these materials. Gathering contributions from historical musicology, enthnomusicology, history, philosophy, and cultural studies, Tomorrow Is the Question generates future research directions in experimental music studies by way of a productive inquiry that sustains and elaborates critical conversations.

Tomorrow Is the Question brings together eleven essays with a pithy and thorough introduction that beg new questions for experimental music studies from a global perspective. This book will set scholars on new paths waiting to be trod.”
—Pauline Oliveros

“As a ‘player’ (tackle, guard, center) rather than a ‘referee’ (journalist, historian, critic), my perspective of the ‘game’ was narrow and limited to the immediate surrounding area. Now, this collection of essays—with its wide-angle spatial and temporal perspectives—finally gives me the chance to be a ‘spectator’ (in the bleachers, press box, spy satellite) looking down on the ‘big picture.’ Thank you.”
—Benjamin Patterson 

“This book explodes the traditional map of experimental music. Rather than drawing a new one, the authors invite us on a journey of global exploration, where we encounter a creative landscape of astounding richness and diversity.”
—Anne C. Shreffler, Harvard University

Tomorrow Is the Question provides a welcome break from conventional approaches to the study of experimental music.  The result is a stimulating collection of essays that highlight the rich and irreducible variety of experimentalist practices. By opening up these new avenues, this book will have a decisive impact on future research in this field.”
—Bernard Gendron

Cover photo: Mirror/Dash (Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon), Los Angeles, 2009. Photo by Peak,

Benjamin Piekut is Assistant Professor of Music at Cornell University.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 304pp.
  • 2 photo, 2 musical examples, 2 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11926-4

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  • $79.95 U.S.

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