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Pierrepont, Alexandre. 2015. La Nuée. L’AACM: Un Jeu de Société Musicale. Marseille: Éditions Parenthèses.

Citton, Yves

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), which recently celebrated its 50th birthday, is certainly one of the most important musical movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This much we know. This thick and dense book, written by French anthropologist and musical theorist Alexandre Pierrepont over a period of almost twenty years, demonstrates that, on top of inventing new ways to make music, the members of the AACM also invented better ways to make a society. Subtitled A Game-Play of Musical Society, it offers a profound and joyous analysis of the many strata simultaneously developed in Chicago beginning in 1965 by African American musicians who had no alternative but to invent new social relations in order to survive economically and thrive artistically as creators, in a country doubly biased against African Americans and against artistic experimentations and lifestyles.

The author originally conducted this research as a dissertation in anthropology, spending years searching for documents, collecting data, recording and transcribing long interviews with the main as well as with the less famous characters of this epic play. A dozen years and a few thousand pages later, Alexandre Pierrepont had gathered a unique wealth of information on the AACM, more than enough to fill this book—but this was not the most important dimension of his work. Pierrepont is an activist, an organizer, a poet, and a creator himself, but first and foremost he is a thinker and a writer: somebody who carefully researches data, somebody who mobilizes anthropological and political theory to shed light on this data but, more importantly, somebody who thinks through historical facts and aesthetic theories in order to pave new ways to understand the unique human realities that are at stake in creative improvised music. His book has all the depth of scholarly knowledge expected from a heavy book of French philosophy, but it is written—and deserves to be read—as an adventure in thought, as an exploratory travel through amazing and unsuspected intellectual landscapes.


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October 23, 2018