The 1970s and 1980s were a remarkable period of musical ferment in downtown Manhattan: the emergence of punk rock at CBGB, new developments in jazz at a number of artist-run lofts, the flowering of minimalism and related trends in new music at The Kitchen. Around 1979, with the East Village as the center of activity, all these strains - jazz/improvisation, rock, and new music - began to come together in compelling ways. With so much overlap of genres downtown, by the early 1980s to categorize a musician as rock, jazz, improv, or classical often required a coin toss.

On Monday, December 10, at 6:30 p.m., New York University’s Fales Library will host a panel discussion on “Downtown Music and the Question of Genre.” The event, which is free and open to the public, takes place at Fales, on the third floor of the NYU Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South (at LaGuardia Place). For further information and to make a reservation, call 212.992.9018.

A panel of musicians who were key players in the downtown music scene will discuss the social history of downtown music with an emphasis on the genre-hopping 1980s. The panel is moderated by Peter Cherches, the author of Fales Library’s new online research guide to downtown music (1971-1987). As a writer, performance artist, and singer, he was active on the downtown scene in the ’80s.

Panelists include:

  • Don Christensen, who since the 1970s has been equally at home in the downtown alternative rock and new music worlds. As a drummer with The Contortions, James White and the Blacks, and the Bush Tetras, he was an important player in the no-wave and punk-funk scenes. He was a founding member of the surf-influenced instrumental band The Raybeats.
  • Jon Gibson, a composer, multi-wind instrumentalist, and visual artist who took part in numerous landmark musical events over the past four decades, performing in the early works of Steve Reich, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and Philip Glass.
  • Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris, one of the leading innovators in the confluence of jazz, new music, improvisation, and contemporary classical music. His work redefines the roles of composer, conductor, arranger, and performer. As a composer, he is widely known for his notated compositions and has been especially acclaimed for pioneering and developing the art of Conduction®.
  • Elliott Sharp, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and improviser. He is known for his turbulent style of guitar playing and mathematically structured compositions. In the 1980s Sharp became a major figure on the downtown New York experimental music scene, collaborating with many of its most prominent players, including John Zorn, Wayne Horvitz, and Bobby Previte. Currently he leads the groups Orchestra Carbon, Tectonics, and Terraplane.

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