The ONCE Group of American composers and avant-garde artists evolved in the late 1950s in Ann Arbor, Michigan; its central figure was the composer Robert Ashley. Other composers who were members included Gordon Mumma, co-organizer with Ashley of the ONCE festivals, Roger Reynolds, who was active in the founding of the group and in the organization of the first festival, George Cacioppo, Donald Scavarda, Bruce Wise, and, in later festivals, 'Blue' Gene Tyranny. Artists, filmmakers (notably George Manupelli), architects, poets, and performance artists were all involved in ONCE mixed-media activities, and many guest composers and musicians took part. ONCE festivals were given annually during the period 1961-1968, and the ONCE Group, a smaller performance art ensemble founded by Ashley, performed, recorded and toured, 1965-1969. After Ashley moved to California in 1969, ONCE activities declined in importance.
The most significant focus for avant-garde mixed-media activity in the Midwest during the 1960s, ONCE sponsored performances of works from the entire range of Cageian and post-Cageian experimental American music; its programs also included music by prominent European contemporaries and works of the classic modernist repertory. The emphasis that ONCE played on mixed media had an influence on subsequent collaborative ventures in California and New York.
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The ONCE Group of American composers and avant-garde artists evolved in the late 1950s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This collection contains documents, artifacts, interview tapes, and other materials relating to the ONCE Group and ONCE festivals.