Saturday, September 12, 2015

La Monte Young, and The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer

La Monte Young came to New York by way of Los Angeles where he played with Wayne Marsh and Ornette Coleman, and by way of the plains of Idaho where he was born. He was influenced by Gregorian chant, Asian Indian classical music and gamelan- hearty drone lineage, all - and, to hear tell, by the hum of power generators and transformer on utility poles. "It's the drone of the city," he said – and he heard it, and he followed it by way of L.A. to New York.

 He was totally dedicated to experimental art that still puts him outside the mainstream. He formed a group, Dream Syndicate, that included future Velvet Underground members John Cale and Angus MacLeis (and Billy Name). For Cale undoubtedly the experience was formative. The long sustained sound that Young favored was intrinsic to the Velvet Undergrounds re-interpretation of basic rocknroll. Something like SunRa,

Young formed a "Dream House" music collective that played a lot of monotonous music for many years, generally and deliberately eschewing recording. The circle of kindred artist spirits included Yoko Ono, performance artist. His compositions incldue The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer. A recent New York Times article outlines his reformation of the Dream House for an extended run in Chelsea. La Monte Young opens a  new version of Dream House of visceral 'continuous sine wave tones.'

Dream House became a living expression of Mr. Young’s ideas about the importance of experiencing certain kinds of mathematically composed sounds over long periods, a path followed with what Ms. Ono described as a “brand of purity” unmatched by any artist she had known. “He edited his life into this,” she said.

His approach has to do with finding absolutes and realities. By way of explanation, he concluded the thought with a fable about a Westerner who traveled to the East and came across an Indian man sitting on the side of the road singing what sounded like a single note. The traveler asked the man why he didn’t sing other notes.

“He says to him: ‘You Westerners are always looking for your tones. I’ve found mine.’ ”

- By Jack Vaughan.  With disclosure/admission that this- story is largely based on "A House Finds a New Home," by Randy Kennedy, NYT,June 12, 2015,  p.c.1.

Addenda and switching gears
La Monte Young, like John Cage, like John Cale, like Yoke Ono, like Ed Sanders, was a part of the ardent NY Avant Garde scene of the 1960s. My research today uncovered another such astronaut, Tony Conrad. He was in Dream Syndicate with Cale, Young, and he built his own instruments, including the Long String Drone, which seems reminiscent, IMHO, of Ed Sanders work. And you could add Bob Moog, and Harry Parch… let us, like the author of a Walker Art Org monograph, throw in Les Paul too…

Long String Drone, attributed here to the year 1972. Long String Drone or, as Conrad coyly abbreviates it, LSD, sits perched on a pair of keyboard stands (not, it seems, original to the era). LSD resembles guitarist and songwriter Les Paul’s first electric guitar, “the log”—referred to as such because of its simple, rectilinear shape—which was made around 1940. Like Paul’s innovation, LSD is a long strip of wood, outfitted with an electrical element (the one musician benefiting from the precedence of the other, using a commercially available guitar pickup), tuning keys, and strings. Three long wire strings stretch from end to end, pulled tightly across hand-notched grooves, numeric and alphabetical markings, and a smattering of green paint and duct tape.


No comments:

Featured Post

Backporch Poesy June 2016

Reading from three favorite poetry anthologies on the back porch on June 17 (anniversary of Watergate breakin!) The three tomes are 1-Th...