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Program 622: La Monte Young at 85

KALW Broadcast Date: October 16, 2020 | Host: Liam Herb

La Monte Thornton Young was born October 14, 1935, in Bern, Idaho, in a log cabin to devout Mormon parents. He’s stated that it was the droning, icy winds, and the sounds of a nearby electrical transformer that sparked his interest in the use of musical drones.

When he was a young man his family moved around the United States many times until settling in Los Angeles. It was there that he received his high school and undergraduate education, attending Los Angeles City College and UCLA. It was also in Los Angeles that Young rubbed elbows with many famous jazz musicians of the day including Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman.

In 1958, he moved to the Bay Area to study at UC Berkeley where he met his lifelong friend and collaborator, Terry Riley. It was also here that he composed his Trio for Strings, a three hour long work of sustained tones that is often cited as one of the first works of musical minimalism.

Shortly after his stint in the Bay Area, he relocated to New York where he began to participate in the Fluxus happenings of the day, many of which took place at Yoko Ono’s studio. It was in the few years after moving to the East Coast that he met his lifelong partner and collaborator Marian Zazeela, developed (with Zazeela) the famous Dream House installations, and began working on his magnum opus The Well-Tuned Piano.

Young’s influence on the music of the 20th and 21st Century is vast. The Theater of Eternal Music boasted collaborators, Terry Riley, John Cale, Tony Conrad, Terry Jennings, Angus MacLise, and Jon Gibson, to name a few.

La Monte Young’s steady forward momentum has seemingly never stopped. He and Zazeela still are living and creating in their Church Street Dream House, taking on students and collaborators. Those who know him say that it’s hard to know where his pursuit of art and his life begin and end.

It’s almost as if he took one of his famous Compositions 1960 to heart, Draw a straight line and follow it.

Program Audio

30-Second Spot

Track Info & Links

Title: 31 VII 69 10:26 – 10:49 PM (excerpt)
Composer: La Monte Young
Performers: La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela
Recording Title: 31 VII 69 10:26 – 10:49 PM / 23 VIII 64 2:50:45 – 3:11 AM The Volga Delta
Record Label: Edition X
Catalog Number: 1079


Title: 42 for Henry Flint
Composer: La Monte Young
Performers: Henry Winkler
Recording Title: N/A (archival recording)
Record Label: N/A
Catalog Number: N/A


Title: La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela in Conversation with Russ Jennings (excerpt)
Composer: N/A
Performers: N/A
Recording Title: N/A (Archival Recording)
Record Label: CST N/A
Catalog Number: N/A


Title: The Well-Tuned Piano (Opening Chord)
Composer: La Monte Young
Performers: La Monte Young
Recording Title: The Well-Tuned Piano 81 X 25 6:17:50 – 11:18:59 PM NYC
Record Label: Gramavision
Catalog Number: 18-8701-2, R279452


Title: song (1960)
Composer: Terry Jennings
Performers: Charles Curtis (cello)
Recording Title: Charles Curtis: Performances & Recordings 1998-2018
Record Label: Saltern Records
Catalog Number: SLT 005


Title: vocal delay
Composer: Jon Gibson
Performers: Jon Gibson
Recording Title: N/A (archival recording)
Record Label: N/A
Catalog Number: N/A


Title: Desert of Ice
Composer: Terry Riley
Performers: Terry Riley
Recording Title: Shri Camel
Record Label: CBS Masterworks
Catalog Number: 35164


Title: Stay on It (1973)
Composers: Julius Eastman
Performers: Georgia Mitoff, voice; Petr Kotik, piano; Benjamin Hudson, violin; Amrom Chodos, clarinet; Joseph Ford, Doug Gaston, saxophones; Dennis Kahle, Jan Williams, percussion
Recording Title: Unjust Malaise
Record Label: New World Records
Catalog Number: 80638

Iranian composer and musician, Saba Alizadeh.
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