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La Monte Young


About this Artist

LA MONTE YOUNG began to pioneer the concept of extended time durations in 1957, and for over 50 years contributed extensively to the development of just intonation and rational number based tun- ing systems in his performance works and the periodic composite sound waveform environments of the Dream House collaborations formulated in 1962 with Marian Zazeela; presentations of his work in the U.S. and Europe, as well as his theoretical writings gradually had a wide-ranging influence on contemporary music, art, and philosophy, including Minimalism, concept art, Fluxus, performance art, and conceptual art. “During the summer of 1958 [Young] composed the Trio for Strings – a landmark in the history of 20th-century music and the virtual fountainhead of American musical minimalism,” (K. Robert Schwarz, Minimalists, 1996).

Musician magazine stated, “As the acknowledged father of minimalism and guru emeritus to the British art-rock school, his influence is pervasive,” and in 1985 the Los Angeles Herald Examiner wrote, “for the past quarter of a century he has been the most influential composer in America. Maybe in the world.” In Minimalism:Origins,1993, Edward Strickland added, “Young is now widely recognized as the originator of the most influential classical music style of the final third of the   20th century.”

In L.A. in the ’50s Young played jazz saxophone, leading a group with Billy Higgins, Dennis Budimir, and Don Cherry. He also played with Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, Terry Jennings, Don Friedman, and Tiger Echols. At Yoko Ono’s studio in 1960 he was director of the first New York loft concert series. He was the editor of An Anthology (NY, 1963), which, with his Compositions 1960, became a primary influence on concept art and the Fluxus movement. In 1962 Young founded his group The Theatre of Eternal Music and embarked on The Tortoise, His Dreams and Journeys (1964-), a large work involving improvisation within strict predetermined guidelines. Young played sopranino saxophone and sang with the group. Jennings, Dennis Johnson, Terry Riley, Angus MacLise, Marian Zazeela, Tony Conrad, John Cale, Jon Gibson, David Rosenboom, Jon Hassell, and Lee Konitz are among those who worked in this group under Young’s direction.

With Marian Zazeela in the early ’60s, Young formulated the concept of a Dream House, a permanent space with sound and light environments in which a work would be played continuously. Young and Zazeela have presented works in sound and light worldwide, from music and light box sculptures to large-scale environmental installations, culminating in two Dia Art Foundation realizations: the six-year continuous six-story Harrison Street Dream House (NYC 1979-85) and the one-year environment (22nd Street NYC 1989-90) within which Young presented The Lower Map of The Eleven’s Division in The Romantic Symmetry (over a 60-cycle base) in Prime Time from 112 to 144 with 119 with the Theatre of Eternal Music Big Band. This 23-piece chamber orchestra was the largest Theatre of Eternal Music ensemble to appear in concert to date. Young has since presented Dream House sound environments at the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2009); Espace Donguy, Paris (1990); Ruine der Künste, Berlin (1992); Pompidou Center, Paris (1994-1995 and 2004-2005); Musée Art Contemporain Lyon (1999) and the MELA Foundation Dream House: Sound and Light, which opened at MELA Foundation, New York in 1993 and has continued through present.

Young and Zazeela helped bring renowned master vocalist Pandit Pran Nath to the U.S. in 1970 and became his first Western disciples, studying with him for 26 years in the traditional gurukula manner of living with and serving the guru. They taught the Kirana style and performed with Pandit Pran Nath in hundreds of concerts in India, Iran, Europe, and the United States. In June 2002, Ustad Hafizullah Khan Sahib, the Khalifa of the Kirana Gharana and son of Pandit Pran Nath’s teacher, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan Sahib, conferred upon Young the distinction of becoming the first Western vocalist to receive the title of “Khan Sahib.” Described by Mark Swed in his October 2009 Los Angeles Times blog as “pure vibratory magic,” Young’s Just Alap Raga Ensemble, founded in 2002 with Zazeela and their senior raga and visual arts disciple, Jung Hee Choi, has become his primary performance vehicle.

The 1974 Rome live world premiere of Young’s magnum opus The Well-Tuned Piano (1964-73-81-present), was celebrated by a commission for him to sign the Bösendorfer piano, which remains permanently in the special tuning. Gramavision’s full-length recording of the continuously evolving five-hour-plus work has been acclaimed by critics to be “the most important and beautiful new work recorded in the 1980s,” “one of the great monuments of modern culture,” and “the most important piano music composed by an American since the Concord Sonata.” At the 1987 MELA Foundation La Monte Young 30-Year Retrospective, Young played the work for a continuous six hours and 24 minutes.

In the ’80s and ’90s, The Theatre of Eternal Music Brass and String Ensembles led by Ben Neill and Charles Curtis presented numerous performances in the U.S. and Europe of The Melodic Versions (1984) of The Four Dreams of China (1962), one of Young’s most important early minimal works, from which in 1991 Gramavision released a CD of The Second Dream of The High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer. In 1990 Young formed The Forever Bad Blues Band, which has performed extensively in Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, and the U.S.,  presenting  two  to  three- hour continuous concerts  of  Young’s Dorian Blues, with Young, keyboard; Jon Catler, just intonation and fretless guitar; Brad Catler, bass; Jonathan Kane, drums; and Marian Zazeela, light design. In 1993 Gramavision released the two-CD set, La Monte Young and The Forever Bad Blues Band in Just Stompin’/Live at the Kitchen.

For La Beauté,  the  celebration  of the Year 2000, the French government invited Young and Zazeela to create a four-month, large-scale Dream House installation featuring the continuous DVD projection of the 1987 six-hour-24-min- ute performance of their collaborative masterwork, The Well-Tuned Piano in The Magenta Lights, set in a site-specific light environment created by Zazeela. Shown daily and visited by more than 200,000 people, the installation was headlined by L’Express: “La Monte Young: Le Son du Siècle.” From May through October 2001, Kunst im Regenbogenstadl, Polling, presented the German premiere of the DVD Dream House installation, continuing from 2002 through the present as a long-term installation with the  addition in 2007 of the European premiere of an electronically generated continuous peri- odic composite sound waveform environment of The Magic Opening Chord from The Well-Tuned Piano. In March-April 2002, MaerzMusik Festival of the Berliner Festspiele premiered the DVD installation of The Well-Tuned Piano in The Magenta Lights set in Zazeela’s light design for the monumental Berlin Staatsbank. Just Dreams released the DVD of The Well-Tuned Piano in The Magenta Lights (JD002) in 2001, described by The Village Voice as “The most important piano work of the  late 20th century.”

In  2003,  under  commission  from  four European organizations, Young and Zazeela created Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord in a setting of Abstract #1 from Quadrilateral Phase Angle Traversals with Dream Light, for solo cello, pre-recorded cello drones, and light design. The full-evening work was composed specifically for cellist Charles Curtis. He premiered it during 2003/04 in Paris, Dijon, Lyon, Berlin, and the Kunst im Regenbogenstadl Dream House. In 2005, the American avant-premiere was presented as part of the La Monte Young 70th Birthday Celebration in three concerts at the MELA Dream House, New York. In May 2008, Curtis presented the Italian premiere at the Angelica Festival in Bologna.

In 2005, the world premiere video installation of The Just Alap Raga Ensemble performing Young’s composition Raga Sundara (ektal vilampit khayal) set in Raga Yaman Kalyan was added to the long-term Regenbogenstadl Dream House. The 2005 La Monte Young 70th Birthday Celebration also included the avant-premiere performance at Kunst im Regenbogenstadl and the world premiere performances at MELA Foundation, New York of the Just Intonation Version (1984-2001-2005) of the Trio for Strings (1958) by The Theatre of Eternal Music String Ensemble led by Charles Curtis,  as well as two concerts of the ongoing avant-premiere of Young’s Raga Sundara by The Just Alap Raga Ensemble at MELA Foundation. Featuring extended alap sections and sustained vocal drones in just intonation over tamburas, The Just Alap Raga Ensemble is now Young’s primary compositional and performance vehicle. He has presented annual concert series of the group at the MELA Dream House from 2002 to present, including two world premiere performances in March 2009 in the Young Zazeela Dream House sound and light environment installed at the Guggenheim Museum as part of the exhibition The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia. The video of the March 21 Just Alap Raga Ensemble concert from the Guggenheim Dream House featuring Young, Zazeela, Jung Hee Choi, and Da’ud Constant, voices; Jon Catler, sustainer electric guitar; Charles Curtis, cello; and Naren Budhkar, tabla, was installed permanently at Kunst im Regenbogenstadl to open their 2009 season, replacing the video of the 2005 Raga Sundara performance.

Over the years Kunst im Regenbogenstadl has hosted cellist Charles Curtis with The Theatre of Eternal Music String Ensemble in performances of several of The Four Dreams of China, including the world premiere of The First Dream of The High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer in 2008, culminating in the world premiere cycle of all four of The Four Dreams of China over a three-day weekend in July 2011.

In 2012, Young and The Just Alap Raga Ensemble performed five Pandit Pran Nath Memorial Tribute Tour concerts in Berlin, Karlsruhe, and Polling, Bavaria Dream Houses with live video streaming to the Angelika Festival, Bologna and Fondazione Mudima, Milan.

In July 2015, Charles Curtis and The Theatre of Eternal Music String Ensemble gave the world premiere of the original full-length version of the Trio for Strings in Regenbogenstadl Polling Dream House and in September 2015, the American premiere in New York at the La Monte Young Marian Zazeela Jung Hee Choi Dia 15 VI 13 545 West 22 Street Dream House.

In 2015, the Dia Art Foundation acquired a unique version of the La Monte Young Marian Zazeela  Jung Hee Choi Dia 15 VI 13 545 West 22 Street Dream House, which was open to the general public from June 13,  2015  to  October 24, 2015. Young and Choi presented for the first time  their  sound  environments in simultaneity: the La Monte Young The Base 9:7:4 Symmetry in Prime Time When Centered above and below The Lowest Term Primes in The Range 288 to 224 with The Addition of 279 and 261 in Which The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped above and Including 288 Consists of The Powers of 2 Multiplied by The Primes within The Ranges of 144 to 128, 72 to 64 and 36 to 32 Which Are Symmetrical to Those Primes in Lowest Terms in The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped below and Including 224 within The Ranges 126 to 112, 63 to 56 and 31.5 to 28 with The Addition of 119 and the Jung Hee Choi TONECYCLE BASE 30 HZ, 2:3:7, The Linear Superposition Of 77 Sine Wave Frequencies Set In Ratios Based On The Harmonics 2, 3 And 7 Imperceptibly Ascending Toward Fixed Frequencies And Then Descending Toward The Starting Frequencies, Infinitely Revolving As In Circles, In Parallel And Various Rates Of Similar Motion To Create Continuous Slow Phase Shift With Long Beat Cycles.