What is the Avant-Garde and Why Does it Matter? Part I

Although it literally means vanguard, in general the term is applied to the arts, where it’s used to describe the experimental (John Cage), the alternative (Frank Zappa), the underground (Finnegans Wake and Mrs Dalloway), the eccentric (Klaus Nomi), and the new (steampunk). Many works created years ago are far more avant-garde than what is being created today, so it really isn’t about what’s hip and current. Occasionally the avant-garde does spring into notoriety (e.g., Mondrian-influenced mod clothing or beatnik poetry), but avant-garde is less about the box’s tinsel than about the seriousness of its contents. Philip Glass, for example, is avant-garde; Lady Gaga is not. (more)

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