La Monte Young

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La Monte Young

Mount Thornton Young (Berne, Idaho, October 14, 1935) is an American composer and musician, generally credited as the first minimalist composer. important and radical after the Second World War, classified as avant-garde, experimental music or drone music. Both his proto-Fluxus and minimal compositions question the nature and definition of music and often include typical elements of performances. He has composed works with only one note in 1960.

La_Monte_Young’s Biography

Born to a Mormon family in Bern, Idaho, his family moved several times in his childhood while his father sought work before settling in Los Angeles, California. He graduated from John Marshall High School and studied at Los Angeles City College, where he triumphed over Eric Dolphy in a saxophone audition for the school’s jazz band. In the jazzy environment of Los Angeles, he played along with some notable musicians such as Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and Billy Higgins.

He studied at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he received a BA in 1958, and then at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), from 1958 to 1960. In 1959 he attended summer courses of Darmstadt conducted by Karlheinz Stockhausen, and in 1960 he moved to New York to study electronic music with Richard Maxfield at the New School for Social Research. His compositions during this period were influenced by Anton Webern, Gregorian chant, Indian classical music, Gagaku, and Indonesian gamelan music.

A good number of Young’s early works use the twelve-tone technique, which he studied as a student of Leonard Stein at Los Angeles City College. (Stein had served as an assistant to Arnold Schoenberg when Schoenberg, the inventor of the twelve-tone method, had taught at UCLA.) Young also studied composition with Robert Stevenson at UCLA and with Seymore Shifrin at UCB. When Young visited Darmstadt in 1959, he found the music and writings of John Cage. There he also met with pianist David Tudor, Cage’s collaborator, who later made premieres of some of Young’s works. At Tudor’s suggestion, Young began a correspondence with Cage. A few months later, Young attended the presentation of some of Cage’s works on the West Coast. In turn, Cage and Tudor included some of Young’s works in his performances throughout the US. and Europe. By then Young had undertaken a turn towards conceptual art, using in his compositions the conceptual principles of indeterminacy and the incorporation of non-traditional sounds, noises and actions.

When Young moved to New York in 1960, he already had a reputation as an enfant terrible of the avant-garde. Initially he developed an artistic relationship with the founder of Fluxus, George Maciunas (with whom he published a text entitled An Anthology) and with other members of the nascent movement. Yoko Ono, for example, organized a series of concerts curated by Young in his attic, and absorbed, apparently, his often parodic and political aesthetic charge. Young’s works of this period, written down as haiku texts, although conceptual and extreme, were not intended to be merely provocative, but rather dreamlike.

His 1960 Compositions include a series of unusual actions. Some of them are unrealizable, but each deliberately examines a certain budget about the nature of music and art and takes those ideas to the extreme. One instructs: “draw a straight line and follow it” (draw a straight line and follow it.) (A directive that he has said has guided his life and his work since then). Another instructs the performer to light a fire. Another states that “this piece is a small whirlpool in the middle of the ocean” (this piece is a little whirlpool out in the middle of the ocean.). Another says that the performer must release a butterfly in the room. And another one challenges the interpreter to push a piano through a wall. Composition 1960 # 7 proved to be especially pertinent to his future activities: it consisted of a B, an F #, a fair fifth, and the instruction: “Let it be played for a long time” (“To be held for a long time”). / p>

In 1962 Young wrote the play The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer [The second dream of a high-voltage line falling to the transformer]. One of the Four Dreams of China, the piece based on four releases or runs, which subsequently gave as frequency relations: 36-35-32-24 (G, C, C # and D, the annotation English of the notes Sol, Do, Do sharp and Re), and the limits of what could be combined and with what. Most of his works after it are based on throws (random), played continuously and a group of runs to improvise on them. For The Four Dreams of China Young, he began to plan the “Dream House,” a light and sound installation where musicians would live and create music twenty-four hours a day.He formed the Theater of Eternal Music for perform Dream House and other pieces. The group initially included Marian Zazeela (who would provide The Ornamental Lightyears Tracery for all performances since 1965), Angus MacLise and Billy Name. In 1964 the group was composed of Young and Zazeela, John Cale and Tony Conrad, a former major mathematician at Harvard, and sometimes Terry Riley (voices). Since 1966 the group has had many changes and has included Garrett List, Jon Hassell, Alex Dea, and many others, including several members of groups from the 1960s. Young has performed the “Theater of Eternal Music” intermittently, since which required expensive and exceptional demands for testing and assembly time.

Most of the pieces have long titles, like The Tortoise Recalling the Drone of the Holy Numbers as they were Revealed in the Dreams of the Whirlwind and the Obsidian Gong, Illuminated by the Sawmill, the Green Sawtooth Ocelot and the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer. [The turtle remembering the buzzing of the sacred numbers when they were revealed in the dreams of the whirlwind and the obsidian gong, illuminated by the sawmill, the Ocelot sawtooth and the high voltage line falling to the transformer]. His works are often extremely long, conceived by Young without beginning or end, existing before and after any particular performance. In their daily lives, also Young and Zazeela practice a long sleep-wake, with days of more than twenty-four hours.

In the early 1970s, the interest in classical music from Asia and the desire to be able to find the intervals he had been using in his work led Young to study with Pandit Pran Nath. Among his companions were the calligrapher and light artist Marian Zazeela, the composers Terry Riley and Yoshi Wada, the philosophers Henry Flynt and Catherine Christer Hennix and many others.

Young considers The Well Tuned Piano – a percussive composition of themes and improvisations for just-intuned piano – as his masterpiece. The performance exceeds six uninterrupted hours, and so far has been documented twice: first in a case of five CDs published by Gramavision, and a subsequent interpretation on a DVD of Young’s own label, Just Dreams. It is one of the defining works of American musical minimalism, which is strongly influenced by mathematical composition, as well as the practice of Hindustani classical music.

Together, Young and Zazeela have made a long series of semi-permanent Dream House installations, which combine Young’s just-intuned, symmetrical configurations and almost calligraphic Zazeela light sculptures. but sensual, using aspects of the spectator / listener perception to create a sensory overload within a physical space defined with great difficulty. From January to April 19, 2009, Dream House was installed in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York as part of the exhibition The Third Mind [Third Mind].

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