Few modern cultural figures are more complex than Henry Flynt. He’s enjoyed a bit more public notice in the past decade, largely due to the work of Chicago’s Locust Music, whose owner, Dawson Prater, has released half a dozen albums of Flynt’s recordings, mostly from the 60s and 70s. In the late 50s, while at Harvard, Flynt was jolted free of his immersion in classical music (he’s a violinist, though he often plays guitar these days), and he decided to adapt avant-garde art concerns to the framework of hillbilly music and blues—and, later, rock ‘n’ roll.
He was a confidant of minimalist pioneer LaMonte Young; he performed at Yoko Ono’s Chambers Street loft; he took guitar lessons from Lou Reed; and he had a band called the Insurrections with artist Walter De Maria on drums. In 2008 Flynt performed at the Empty Bottle with his niece Libby Flynt as part of the Wire‘s Adventures in Modern Music festival. As a fan of his, I was disappointed and perplexed by the show, which is probably as it should’ve been.