La Monte Young: The Black Record – Layer upon layer of sound.

The father of drone, the man himself.  Someting very very special for my lucky readers today.

La Monte Thornton Young is an American avant-garde composer, musician, and artist.

Young is generally recognized as the first minimalist composer.  His works have been included among the most important and radical post-World War II avant-garde, experimental, and contemporary music. Young is especially known for his development of drone music. Both his proto-Fluxus and “minimal” compositions question the nature and definition of music and often stress elements of performance art. He is commonly seen as  one of the four most celebrated leaders of the minimalist school, along with Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley, despite having little in common formally with Glass and Reich.

In 1962 Young wrote The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer. One of The Four Dreams of China, the piece is based on four pitches, which he later gave as the frequency ratios: 36-35-32-24 (G, C, +C#, D), and limits as to which may be combined with any other. Most of his pieces after this point are based on select pitches, played continuously, and a group of long held pitches to be improvised upon. For The Four Dreams of China Young 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 Theatre of Eternal Music to realize “Dream House” and other pieces. The group initially included Marian Zazeela (who has provided the light work The Ornamental Lightyears Tracery for all performances since 1965), Angus MacLise, and Billy Name. In 1964 the ensemble comprised Young and Zazeela; John Cale and Tony Conrad, a former Harvard mathematics major, and sometimes Terry Riley (voices). Since 1966 the group has seen many permutations and has included Garrett List, Jon Hassell, Alex Dea, and many others, including members of the 60s groups. Young has realized the “Theatre of Eternal Music” only intermittently, as it requires expensive and exceptional demands of rehearsal and mounting time.

Most realizations of the piece have long titles, such as 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. His works are often extreme in length, conceived by Young as having no beginning and no end, existing before and after any particular performance. In their daily lives, too, Young and Zazeela practice an extended sleep-waking schedule—with “days” longer than twenty-four hours.


Young made The Black Record during this period with Marian Zazeela, his wife. Zazeela also did the cover art for the album. The music is filled with moments of a seamless sudden liftoff from a place of linear accumulation and synthetic realisations, that the listener discovers are organized according to completely different principles. What sounds like a drone is actually a “stack”. The complex organisation of various modalities, musical and other, layered each upon the other, reaching always toward a higher wisdom or science toward which we all stumble. Within this music is both the journey and the arrival, each appealing to the other within the context of itself. These deceptively simple methods we might refer to as “drone” are layer up on layer of complex responses to the various stratagems I have highlighed above. The listening experience has the opportunity to reflect this intensity. In other words, this music is an appeal to the listeners freedom. You ae invited to wander inside its halls and come up with your own arrival.

This album is an essential for anyone interested in Avant Garde music. Personally – I adore it!

 

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