Benjamin Piekut. Henry Cow: The World Is a Problem and George Henderson. Blind Joe Death’s America: John Fahey, the Blues, and Writing White Discontent

Book review by Maurice Windleburn 

Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne

Context 48 (2022): 121–25.

Published online: 31 Jan. 2023


In the last decade or so there has been an increase in musicological studies on the liminal space between art music and popular styles. A foremost scholar in this field (if it can be called that) is Benjamin Piekut, who wrote his first book, Experimentalism Otherwise: The New York Avant-Garde and its Limits (University of California Press, 2011) as a series of interrelated case studies. For his second book, Piekut focuses instead on a single band, Henry Cow, who sit neatly in the twilight zone between high and low art. Appropriately, this book is equally accessible to general readers and critically minded musicologists alike: its highly readable narrative avoids jargon and unnecessary citation. Divided into eight chapters (plus an introduction and afterword), Henry Cow traces the band’s story from its genesis in 1968 to its dissolution ten years later. […]

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