From 1961 to 1966 the ONCE Festival of New Music was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The primary aim of ONCE's founders—Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, George Cacioppo, Roger Reynolds, and Donald Scavarda—was to create a forum for the presentation of cutting-edge music.
Here are two perspectives on the festival, one from a participant, Gordon Mumma, and one from composer and writer Kyle Gann.
Gordon Mumma (from "The ONCE Festival and How it Happened," originally published in 1967.)
"The necessity for working outside the established ways was inherent in the situation. The artists involved were of different disciplines: composers, painters, filmmakers, writers, sculptors, and architects. Their common ground was that they all lived in Ann Arbor. Being hundreds of miles from New York City, the avenue of commerce was basically inaccessible. Though a few were employed in teaching at the University of Michigan, virtually all efforts at enlisting support from this institution precipitated resistance and animosity to the project. Applications and contacts with numerous foundations, continuously for more than six years, produced no responses beyond a growing file of polite, through sometimes enthusiastic, fine-bond, raised-letterhead replies."
Read the whole article here.
Kyle Gann (from the Village Voice, 2003)
The ONCE festival—I have to consciously stop myself from preceding it with the word legendary, which became welded to its name—has the reputation of being the first time composers took performance into their own hands. Some of the ONCE composers went on to fame, some didn't, and for 30 years I've wondered what those festivals sounded like. So here comes New World Records with five discs selected from among some 170 works, accompanied by thorough, scholarly, often surprising liner notes by Leta Miller.
Read the whole article here (PDF).
Click here to go to the New World ONCE Festival box set page to listen to samples, download the audio, or order the CDs.