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The 1976 Adelaide Festival was held from Saturday, March 6 to Sunday, March 28, led by Artistic Director Anthony Steel.

Steel’s second Adelaide Festival program was dominated by a polarising program of avant-garde 20th century music.

Legendary artists such as the great John Cage appalled many with this Empty Words concert where he sat for an hour in front of a microphone droning what was described by The Australian as “a monotonous succession of hissed and spluttered consonants and syllables”.

Popular concerts by Leo Sayer, Herbie Mann, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee appealed to a wider audience; as did the high-camp rock theatre production Betty Blokk Buster Follies featuring Reg Livermore.

Other highlights included US contemporary dance company Merce Cunningham’s first trip to Australia, Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck and seasons of black protest theatre - South African Athol Fugard's Sizwe Bansi is Dead, The Island and Boesman and Lena.

Adelaide Writers’ Week guests included Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, James Baldwin and Wole Soyinka.