the ONCE Group

The ONCE Group was a collection of musicians, visual artists, architects, and filmmakers who wished to create an environment in which artists could explore and share techniques and ideas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The group was responsible for hosting the ONCE Festival of New Music in Ann Arbor between 1961 and 1966.

The ONCE Festivals ”” four to seven performances per year in February and March ”” formed the centerpiece of the group’s activities. Programs for the first five years (1961”“1965) list 170 works by 92 composers, most on the cutting edge of the national and international new- music scene.

Although it operated on a shoestring budget, ONCE attracted artists from across the country, and even from Europe. The first Festival opened with Luciano Berio, Cathy Berberian, and musicians from Pierre Boulez’s Parisian concert series, Domaine Musical.

Pianist Paul Jacobs played solo concerts two years running. Terry Jennings, La Monte Young came from New York, as did the Camerata Quartet and the Judson Dance Theater. The Dorian Woodwind Quintet came from Massachusetts, Nancy and Bert Turetzky from Connecticut, Pauline Oliveros from California.

Alvin Lucier brought the Brandeis University Chamber Chorus, Jack McKenzie directed the University of Illinois Contemporary Chamber Players, and Lukas Foss came to Ann Arbor with a new-music ensemble from SUNY Buffalo. A group of ONCE artists even performed at the Venice Biennale in 1964.

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