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The Avant-Garde, originating from the French for "advance guard" or "vanguard", literal translation "fore-guard", it describes people, or works of art, or bodies of music that are experimental or innovative.

General Meaning

Something that is referred to as "Avant-Garde", would be describing something that pushes the generally accepted boundaries of what is considered to be the norm or the average "run of the mill"", usually this phrase would be used in the context of something cultural.

Some people think of the Avant-Garde as a hallmark of "modernism", as opposed to "postmodernism".
A number of artists have associated themselves with the Avant-Garde movement, tracing a line through history from Dada through the Situationists to Postmodern artists such as the Language poets around 1981.

The Avant-Garde has also worked towards radical and social reforms.

It was this meaning that was evoked by the Saint Simonian Olinde Rodrigues in his essay "L'artiste, le savant et l'industriel" ("The artist, the scientist and the industrialist", 1825), which contains the first recorded use of "Avant-Garde" in its now customary sense: there, Rodrigues calls on artists to "serve as [the people's] avant-garde", insisting that "the power of the arts is indeed the most immediate and fastest way" to social, political and economic reform.

In a Musical Context

The title "Avant-Garde" is often used as a label for music that is thought to be "ahead of its time" by critics or fans, or when critics can't think of a better description and need a label, some things that can trigger the use of this label, is when an artists music contains unique or original elements, or it explores unusual fusions from different genres.

In modern times, the term is sometimes used to describe post-1945 music, with a tendency towards modernist sounds, but not definable as "experimental", although sometimes it can include some type of experimental sound, sometimes characterised by the rejection of standard tonality.

Some modernist style is also Avant-Garde, but there is a distinction between the two styles.
Classical composers such as Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, George Antheil, and Igor Stravinsky may well be considered Avant-Garde in their early works, which were thought of as provocative, although these composers may not have intended their work to be that way, but the Avant-Garde title is not really correct for their later work.

Modernists of the post–World War II period, such as Elliott Carter, Milton Babbitt, György Ligeti, Witold Lutosławski, and Luciano Berio, never conceived their music for the purpose of goading an audience, and so cannot nessaccerally be classified as Avant-Garde, but the likes of John Cage and Harry Partch, kept their work Avant-Garde all the way through their creative careers.

Later Days

In the early 1970s, art rock bands, that grew out of, or became part of the world of Glam Rock, for example; Roxy Music and David Bowie cited some of their work as Avant-Garde. When Roxy Music lead vocalist, Bryan Ferry was seeking a lead guitarist he sent out an advertisement in Melody Maker which read "The perfect guitarist for avant-rock group".


Some bands/artists that have been labelled as Avant-Garde, either by themselves or by critics;-


Art Of Noise




Captain Beefheart

Celtic Frost


David Bowie

David Sylvian


Die Warzau


Einstürzende Neubauten

Erik Satie


Felix Da Housecat


Frank Zappa


Harold Budd

Human League


J. G. Thirlwell

John Cage





Lydia Lunch


Mike Patton (of Faith No More)

The Monks




Nurse with Wound


Pere Ubu

Pink Floyd

The Plastic Ono Band



The Residents

Robert Fripp

Roxy Music


Sonic Youth

Siouxsie & the Banshees


Talking Heads


Terminates Here

Tim Buckley



Other Pages

Some other music genres that have had some crossover with Avant-Garde;-

Progressive Rock

No Wave


Industrial (early years)