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Robert E. Sweet
Music Universe, Music Mind

Music Universe, Music Mind presents an extensive look into another previously obscured piece of the 1970s creative music puzzle, Karl Berger's Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY. Between the years of 1971 and 1984, some of the world's top creative musicians held residencies at CMS, sharing their talents with music students of all levels who were ambitious enough to immerse themselves in the Studio's communally oriented intensive programs. One such student is the author of this history, Bob Sweet—a drummer who studied at CMS on three separate occasions—a fact that propels this study to a point beyond the average objectified research project, resulting in a highly personalized tale that closely analyzes the factors behind the Studio's success and eventual demise.

While a personalized approach such as this can often fall into mythification and too much reliance on opinion over fact, Sweet does an admirable job of retaining objectivity. Whether discussing the communal philosophies behind Karl and Ingrid Berger's social and educational organization of CMS, the blurring of distinctions between teacher and student that often occurred in the programs, or the parallels between CMS and North Carolina's Black Mountain College, Sweet keeps his distance—allowing the participants to speak for themselves (the fruits of several hours of interviews) and amplifying their comments appropriately. In the chronological framework he employs, Sweet emphasizes getting the story told, though not without making some astute conclusions along the way.

One of the most striking and inspiring aspects of the CMS story is the continuous struggle to keep the enterprise financially afloat. Sweet explains in great detail the succession of triumphs and disappointments experienced by those who waged the battle to keep CMS funded. At its most prosperous the Studio received ample grants from the State of New York to fund both educational and community oriented programming; at the lowest points CMS survived on the fragile limits of Berger's credit cards. In this context, Sweet's connection between the advent of the Reagan administration and the ultimate shutting down of CMS is particularly relevant—even in the times of a more liberal governmental attitude toward the arts funding was difficult to come by; with the shift to Reagan's Voodoo Economics what was once difficult became virtually impossible.

In all, Music Universe, Music Mind offers a cornucopia of straightforwardly written information for anyone interested in the social and political climates surrounding creative music in the 1970s and early 1980s, without sacrificing attention to the music and musicians. By blending a wealth of interviews and personal anecdotes (of which Sweet's story of picking up Joseph Jarman and Don Moye at the airport is a standout) with insightful commentary, Sweet's work is a welcome addition to any creative music bibliography.