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Benjamin D. Piekut
Benjamin Piekut studied music and philosophy at Hampshire College before pursuing his M.A. in composition at Mills College, where he studied with Alvin Curran and Pauline Oliveros. After a stint in the critical studies/experimental practices program at the University of California, San Diego, he completed his Ph.D. in historical musicology at Columbia University. His book, Experimentalism Otherwise: The New York Avant-Garde and its Limits, was published in 2011 by the University of California Press. Situated at the intersection of free jazz, the Cagean avant-garde, Fluxus, radical politics, and popular music, the book portrays New York experimentalism in the 1960s as a series of conflicts, struggles, and exclusions.
He is the editor of Tomorrow is the Question: New Directions in Experimental Music Studies (University of Michigan Press, 2014), a collection of essays that explore new corners of experimental music history. He is also the co-editor, with George E. Lewis, of The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016), a two-volume set gathering authors from the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. In celebration of the John Cage centennial in 2012, he co-edited (with David Nicholls) a special issue of Contemporary Music Review.
Piekut’s research interests include experimental music in the U.S. and U.K., jazz after 1950, critical studies in race and gender, improvisation studies, music technologies, and performance studies. He has published his research in Jazz Perspectives, The Drama Review, Contemporary Music Review, Cultural Critique, Twentieth-Century Music, American Quarterly, and The Journal of the American Musicological Society, and has presented papers at the annual meetings of the Society for American Music, American Musicological Society, International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Society for Ethnomusicology, Feminist Theory and Music, and Performance Studies International.
Piekut’s research has been supported by the Whiting Foundation, the American Musicological Society, the University of Southampton, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. His article, “Deadness,” co-authored with Jason Stanyek, won the 2011 Outstanding Article award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and was named one of MIT Press’s “50 Most Influential Articles” in all disciplines. Prior to joining the Department of Music at Cornell, Piekut taught at the University of Southampton (UK).
experimental music, cultural studies, US music, improvisation, sound studies, popular music, jazz
- American Studies Program
- BP and George E. Lewis, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. 2 volumes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
- Editor, Tomorrow is the Question: New Directions in Experimental Music Studies (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014).
- Experimentalism Otherwise: The New York Avant-Garde and its Limits. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.
- John Cage at 100. Special issue of Contemporary Music Review, co-edited with David Nicholls. Vol. 31, no. 1 (February 2012).
- "Music for Socialism, London 1977," Twentieth-Century Music 16/1 (2019): 67-93.
- “Another Version of Ourselves: The Enigmas of Improvised Subjectivity," Liminalities, 14/1 (2018): 72-89.
- "On and Off the Grid: Music for and around Judson Dance Theater," in The Work Is Never Done: Judson Dance Theater, ed. Ana Janevski and Thomas Lax. New York: MoMA, 2018.
- “Postwar Music and Sound,” Twentieth-Century Music, 14/3 (2018): 439-42.
- “Afterword: Locating Hemispheric Experimentalism.” In Experimentalisms in Practice: Music Perspectives from Latin America, ed. Ana R. Alonso-Minutti, Eduardo Herrera, and Alejandro L. Madrid. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.
- “Not So Much a Program of Music as the Experience of Music,” in Merce Cunningham: CO:MM:ON TI:ME, edited by Fionn Meade and Joan Rothfuss, 113-29 (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2017).
- “Pigeons,” Representations 132 (Fall 2015): 112–120.
- “Indeterminacy, Free Improvisation, and the Mixed Avant-Garde: Experimental Music in London, 1965-75.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 67/3 (Fall 2014): 769-824.
- “Introduction: New Questions for Experimental Music,” in Tomorrow Is the Question, ed. Ben Piekut, 1-14.
- “Actor-Networks in Music History: Clarifications and Critiques,” Twentieth-Century Music 11/2 (2014): 191-215.
- “There must be some relatIon beTween mushrOoms and trains: Alvin Curran’s Boletus Edulis—Musica Pendolare.” In The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music and Sound Studies, ed. Sumanth Gopinath and Jason Stanyek. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
- “Chance and Certainty: John Cage’s Politics of Nature.” Cultural Critique 84 (Spring 2013): 134-63.
- “The Multiple Politics of Henry Cow: Chris Cutler in interview with Benjamin Piekut.” In Red Strains: Music and Communism Outside the Communist Bloc, ed. Robert Adlington, 43–53. Oxford: British Academy/Oxford University Press.
- “Sound’s Modest Witness: Notes on Cage and Modernism.” Contemporary Music Review, John Cage at 100 Special Issue, 31/1 (February 2012): 3-18.
- Review of The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music (Ashgate, 2009). Notes (December 2010): 312-17.
- “Mortitude: Tecnologias do Intermundano.” Portugese translation of “Deadness,” co-authored with Jason Stanyek. In Rumos da cultura da música—negócios, estéticas, linguagens e audibilidades, ed. Simone Pereira de Sá. Rio de Janeiro: Sulina, 2010.
- BP and Jason Stanyek. “Deadness: Technologies of the Intermundane.” The Drama Review 54/1 (Spring 2010): 14-38.
- “New Thing? Gender and Sexuality in the Jazz Composers Guild.” American Quarterly 62/1 (March 2010): 25-48.
- “‘Demolish Serious Culture!’: Henry Flynt and Workers World Party.” In Sound Commitments: Avant-garde Music and the Sixties, ed. Robert Adlington, 37-55. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
- “Race, Community, and Conflict in the Jazz Composers Guild.” Jazz Perspectives 3/3 (December 2009): 191-231.