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Young, La Monte

has pioneered the concept of extended time durations in contemporary music for over fifty years. He contributed extensively to the study of just intonation and to the development of rational number-based tuning systems that are used in his periodic composite sound waveform environments, as well as in many of his major performance works. Presentations of Young’s work in the United States and Europe, as well as his theoretical writings, gradually influenced a group of composers to create a static, periodic music which became known as minimalism.

In Los Angeles in the 1950s 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 (New York, 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.

With Marian Zazeela in the early 1960s, he 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 realisations: the six-year continuous six-storey Harrison Street Dream House (New York City, 1979–85) and a one-year environment (22nd Street, New York City, 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-strong 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 in New York (2009), Espace Donguy in Paris (1990), Ruine der Künste in Berlin (1992), Pompidou Centre in Paris (1994–95 and 2004–5), Musée d’Art Contemporain in Lyon (1999), and the MELA Foundation Dream House: Seven Years of Sound and Light, which opened in New York in 1993 and has continued through present.

Young and Zazeela helped bring renowned master vocalist Pandit Pran Nath to the United States in 1970 and became his first Western disciples, studying with him for twenty-six 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 and continue to perform with their group The Just Alap Raga Ensemble. In June 2002, Young was conferred the title of Khan Sahib by Ustad Hafizullah Khan Sahib, the Khalifa of the Kirana Gharana and son of Pandit Pran Nath’s teacher, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan Sahib. The live world premiere of Young’s magnum opus The WellTuned Piano (1964–73–81–present) in Rome in 1974 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 he played the work for a continuous 6 hours and 24 minutes. In 1990, Young formed The Forever Bad Blues Band, which has performed extensively in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, and the United States, presenting twoto three-hour continuous concerts of Young’s Dorian Blues.

For La Beauté, the celebration of the Year 2000, the French government invited Young and Zazeela to create a four-month, largescale Dream House installation featuring the continuous DVD projection of the 1987 six-hour 24-minute 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.

In 2003, under commission from four European organisations, 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, prerecorded cello drones and light design. The full evening work was composed specifically for cellist Charles Curtis, who premiered it during 2003–4 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 a three concert series at the MELA Dream House, New York.

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 two concerts of the ongoing avant-premiere of Young’s Raga Sundara by The Just Alap Raga Ensemble at MELA Foundation. 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.


Major works (since 1960): Poem for Chairs, Tables, Benches, etc. with unspecified sound sources (1960), 2 Sounds for tape (1960), Compositions 1960 #s 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 15, performance pieces (1960), Piano Pieces for David Tudor I–III, performance pieces (1960), Invisible Poem Sent to Terry Jennings, performance pieces (1960), Piano Pieces for Terry Riley I–II, performance pieces (1960), Target for Jasper Johns for piano (1960), Arabic Numeral (Any Integer) to H.F. for piano(s) or gong(s) or ensembles of at least 45 instruments of the same timbre, or combinations of the above, or orchestra (1960), Compositions 1961 #s 1–29, performance pieces (1961), Young’s Dorian Blues in B(1960–61), Young’s Aeolian Blues in B(1961), Death Chant for male voices, carillon or large bells (1961), [Untitled], jazz-drone improvisations (1959−62), Response to Henry Flynt Work Such That No One Knows What’s Going On (1962), Poem on Dennis’ Birthday for unspecified instruments (1962), The Four Dreams of China (The Harmonic Versions) for tunable sustaining instruments of like timbre, in multiples of four (1962), Studies in The Bowed Disc for gong (1963), [Improvisations] for sopranino saxophone, voices and instruments (1962−64), soundtracks for Andy Warhol films Eat, Sleep, Kiss and Haircut (1963−64), Pre-Tortoise Dream Music for sopranino saxophone, soprano saxophone, vocal drone, violin, viola and sine waves (1964), Bowed Mortar Relays (1964), The Tortoise, His Dreams and Journeys for voices, various instruments and sine waves (1964), Sunday Morning Dreams for tunable sustaining instruments and/or sine waves (1965), Composition 1965 $50, performance piece (1965), Map of 49’s Dream The Two Systems of Eleven Sets of Galactic Intervals Ornamental Lightyears Tracery for voices, instruments and sine waves (1966), Robert C. Scull Commission for sine waves (1967), Claes and Patty Oldenburg Commission for sine waves (1967), Betty Freeman Commission, sound, light box and sound environment (1967), Chords from The Tortoise, His Dreams and Journeys for sine waves (1967), Drift Studies for sine waves (1967), for Guitar (Intonation Version) (1978), Prelude and Postlude for one or more guitars (1980), The Subsequent Dreams of China for tunable sustaining instruments of like timbre in multiples of eight (1980), The Well-Tuned Piano for piano (1964−81), The Gilbert B. Silverman Commission to Write, in Ten Words or Less, a Complete History of Fluxus Including Philosophy, Attitudes, Influences, Purposes (1981), Chords from The Well-Tuned Piano, sound environments (1981), The Melodic Versions of The Four Dreams of China for tunable sustaining instruments of like timbre in multiples of four (1984), The Melodic Versions of The Subsequent Dreams of China for tunable sustaining instruments of like timbre, in multiples of eight (1984), Trio for Strings, Postlude from The Subsequent Dreams of China (1984), The Big Dream, sound environment (1984), Orchestral Dreams for orchestra (1985), The Big Dream Symmetries I–VI, sound environment (1988), The Lower Map of The Eleven’s Division... for unspecified instruments and sound environment (1989−90), Chronos Kristalla for string quartet (1990), The Symmetries in Prime Time... (various versions, 1989–91), The Prime Time Twins (various versions, 1989−91), Annod 92 X 19 Version for Zeitgeist (1992), Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord for cello, tape and light (2002), Raga Sundara for voices and instruments (2002–).