I had just paid for an armful of LPs at Iris Records, my local vinyl emporium in Jersey City’s Village. I was turning to leave when Steve, sitting behind the stacks of records crowding around the cash, stopped me. He pulled a record from the pile “This just came in,” he said with that slightly fiendish grin he gets when he knows he’ll hook me into buying another record. I’m sure I’m not the only customer who regularly flips through Iris’s avant-garde bin, but I’m probably the most consistent. It is my work, and my passion, and Steve knows to keep an eye out for me.
One of the challenges of listening to avant-garde music is finding avant-garde music to listen to. Most major cities have some kind of contemporary and experimental music scene. You can usually find something going on in a gallery, at a local conservatory (like the Juilliard School here in New York), in a particularly adventurous performance venue (like Le Poisson Rouge, also in New York), or as part of a contemporary music festival (there are still a few of those). There’s always radio and, with the Internet and smartphones, you can listen to WQXR’s Q2 stream pretty much anywhere. The challenge is listening to recorded avant-garde music on your own time.