press release

On the occasion of his 70th birthday, Diapason honors this great artist and innovator with contemporary works by four colleagues who have had long associations with La Monte Young.

October 8 - Charles Curtis October 15 - Michael J. Schumacher October 22 - Catherine Christer Hennix October 29 - Alvin Lucier

October 8 Charles Curtis Butterfly for La Monte Young Notes on the work, by Charles Curtis:

For my contribution to this month's four-part celebration of La Monte Young's 70th birthday, I wanted to interpret, under installatory conditions, specific aspects of Young's work from the vantage point of my long engagement with his work as a performer. My notion of performance is of a critical, creative interpretation of a composer's ideas, and I wanted to approach the discipline of installation in exactly the same manner.

The 28:27 interval is a distinctive presence in La Monte Young's septimally-based tunings, such as The Well-Tuned Piano and Just Charles and Cello in The Romantic Chord. Especially in the latter, because the interval is sustained, it takes on signature status. Its special quality is a rapid beating pattern inherent in the close proximity of its two values. At certain transpositions it is impossible to distinguish the two individual frequencies; rather we hear 28:27 as a single sonority rapidly fluttering at a very constant rate. This is its presence in Just Charles and Cello in the Romantic Chord; appearing as pre-recorded cello tones, it functions as a vibrant and acoustically demanding drone over which I perform the intervallic patterns of The Magic Chord.

Through the practice of tuning just intervals over very long periods of time I discovered the phenomenon of extremely slow acoustical beats. Obviously there is no such thing as a perfect, "beat-free" interval, as La Monte has pointed out; beats simply slow down to a point at which we are no longer able to follow them, and beyond. The perceptual frame for discovering if an interval is "beat-free" needs to be gradually enlarged to include beats of several minutes per cycle; I believe I have observed single beats of about twenty minutes' length (tuning an electric guitar with e-bow to a sine wave). With practice, we can increase our frame of perception to a surprising degree, and by an act of exceptional focus we can perceive beats with surprisingly long single cycles. At this point one can no longer say the interval is "not in tune"; for all intents and purposes it is "in tune", but it is also, just perceptibly and very slowly, in motion.

La Monte Young has pointed out, and through his music probably demonstrated, that the universe can be comprehended as vibration; that is, as a succession of ongoing cycles. Sound, in this view, offers a uniquely vivid model for experiencing the nature of existence. In theoretical physics the so-called "butterfly effect" suggests that very tiny, seemingly insignificant energy signals, such as the fluttering of a butterfly's wings, can cause interference patterns of incommensurate scale and at great distances. Beats form an interesting representation of interference; the discrepancy between two vibrating signals is made palpable. When that discrepancy is minute, the consequences are extremely subtle but of larger scale.

La Monte tells of walking with Pandit Pran Nath and discovering a beautiful butterfly absolutely motionless on the ground. After observing it for a while, Pandit Pran Nath says he thinks it must be dead. No, La Monte replies after watching a little longer, it's just resting, I think it's alive. At this moment the butterfly flies off. See what powers La Monte has! Pandit Pran Nath exclaims.

In the Compositions 1960, Young instructs the performer to release a butterfly into the performance space. The doors and windows are to remain open, so that the butterfly can make it back to the outdoors when it wishes to. I have performed this piece once; and on that occasion its beauty was in its brevity: the butterfly immediately found the open windows and flew away. There is a widespread notion that realizations of Young's music must invariably be long; but length is highly subjective, and in the highest state of contemplation categories such as short and long probably no longer apply.

A birthday marks the beginning of a new cycle: we pass once more the starting point of our perpetual journey around the sun. Periodic cycles offer themselves as ideal objects of contemplation: whether the immediately felt cycles of heartbeats, breath, sleeping and waking, or the barely perceptible changes of seasons and generations, and the motions of the heavenly bodies, the conscious act of noting their procession affirms the continuity of life.

In Butterfly for La Monte Young a 28:27 interval, tuned in sine waves and emanating from one of two speakers, is subjected to a fractional interference signal. The interference signal is another 28:27 interval, emanating from the other speaker, tuned 1.00000491/1 above the first interval. The result is a very slow beating pattern, which will be heard as a gradual cyclical motion in the space. This fraction is calculated to cause, over the 6-hour duration of the installation, exactly 70 such cycles.

One of the corollaries of the "butterfly effect" is that space is connected through vibration, even over large distances. There is no such thing as empty space. This undeniable fact is at play in Butterfly for La Monte Young; despite only two loudspeakers, sound moves around the listener, activating air molecules at some distance from the sources in an orderly and predictable pattern. To track the motion of the interference cycles, one must oneself be motionless; and any ancillary motion in the room will temporarily disrupt the pattern.

As an interpretation, Butterfly for La Monte Young attempts to offer an object of contemplation appropriate to the marking of a birthday, with its awareness of the passage of time, and the multiple levels of time awareness. But I wanted it to be appropriate to the person and his work; thus I draw specifically from at least four identifiable sources in La Monte's work. First, the image of the butterfly is poetically, and very subjectively, associated with the 28:27 interval. The 28:27 interval itself is thematicized and extrapolated from his work. The setting of sound slowly in motion, and the position of the motionless listener, in effect inverts the relationship of the Dream House, in which it is the motion of the listener which creates change. And finally the concept of a nearly-static sound object that changes slowly refers directly to the Drift Studies from the early 1960's, tuned frequency composites that beat slowly due to the drift in electrical current to the analog sine wave generators.

La Monte's work, over nearly fifty years, has taught us to experience time and space in an unprecedented sharpness of detail. This is why his influence is so pervasive: it functions on a profound and essential level. His art offers us not a typology of means or a style, but an experience of life, and of ourselves. His work has long taken on its own independent existence, and at 70 he is a part of its ongoing cyclical evolution, and that of the culture, which he has significantly shaped.

Charles Curtis is a cellist. On December 3, 10 and 17 he will perform La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela's Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord (2002-2005), a three-hour-plus solo cello work with light projection, in the MELA Foundation Dream House space. These performances are part of Waking States, a survey of works written for Curtis or with which he has been closely associated. Eliane Radigue's brand new Naldjorlak, a concert-length, purely acoustic solo made in collaboration with Curtis, will receive its world premiere at Tenri Cultural Institute on December 5; a program of Alvin Lucier's music for cello, including the New York premiere of Music for Cello with One or More Amplified Vases, is at Diapason on December 7; on December 11 Tonic will present Terry Jennings' Piece for Cello and Saxophone (1960) in a special setting for solo cello made for Curtis by La Monte Young; and on December 14 Curtis and pianist Aleck Karis will offer Morton Feldman's 80-minute Patterns in a Chromatic Field at Double Knot Rug Gallery.

Curtis is the former principal cellist of the North German Radio Orchestra in Hamburg; since 2000 he has been Professor of Contemporary Music Performance at the University of California, San Diego.

October 15 Fictional Fractions Factional Frictions (in collaboration with Donald Miller) two sound installations by Michael J. Schumacher Notes on the work: These pieces honor La Monte Young's sense of humor, his love of wordplay, his pioneering work in friction sounds, and complex just intervals, and his (short-lived) fascination for professional wrestling. Michael J. Schumacher is a composer, performer and curator, and has received degrees in music from The Juillard School and Indiana University. Director of the sound and intermedia galleries, Studio Five Beekman and Diapason, he has produced exhibitions by David Behrman, Steve Roden, Marina Rosenfeld, Achim Wollscheid and other pioneer sound experimenters. He composes electronic sound installations using 2 - 25 speakers, computer-controlled random structures, taped and live music and acoustic works for piano, chamber ensemble, voice, and orchestra, and has presented his sound installations at major art institutions in the United States and Europe. His discography includes five solo CDs, including a double CD set on the XI label "Room Pieces" (2002). He appears as pianist on the new Stephen Vitiello/David Tronzo CD on New Albion. "Donald Miller, best known for his work with Borbetomagus, whose creativity and emotional resonance reflects the broad spectrum of aesthetics---all manner of avant garde art, radical philosophies, and indeed, rock 'n' roll---which color his expression ... his is a sustained ... and defiant examination of the noise particles inherent in a magnetic field." Cadence Magazine

October 22 Soliton(e) Star, Resonance Region 1A (sound) with NUR (video) & The Electric Harpsichord 232X (sound) two sound installations by Catherine Christer Hennix THIS SPECIAL PRESENTATION OF HENNIX'S SOLITONE STAR RESONANCE WILL PLAY CONTINUOUSLY FOR 100 HOURS BEGINNING FRIDAY OCTOBER 21 AT 6PM. THE GALLERY WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR LISTENING BY APPOINTMENT OUTSIDE OF NORMAL HOURS. "A "solitary wave" or "soliton" is an example of an exitable medium which responds dynamically to vibrational variations in the environment as it travels forward in time. The soliton has, however, no memory but it recovers its initial form after each vibrational interaction and proceeds in time as if it had never been disturbed or exited by vibrations from the past. When confined to a large cavity, such as the interior of a chamber hall, the soliton becomes a "solitone", coherently interacting with itself in the form of standing waves continuously reflected from the walls of their spatial confinement. These compositions were originally scored for quartz crystals and analog electronic circuits. Corresponding digital compositions, scored for the first computer at EMS (SR's digital electronic studio in Stockholm), were all given the title "Fixed Points" (alluding to Brouwer's fixed point theorem) and they initiated my concept of electronic "InfinityCompositions", compositions without an end sustained by algorithmically controlled, continuous binary calculations." from "Revisiting Brouwer's Lattice 30 Years Later" (2005) by Catherine Christer Hennix Catherine Christer Hennix born 1948 in Stockholm, is an artist, poet, composer, and philosopher with a strong interest in logic, the foundations of mathematics and formal music theory. To read more...

October 29 Places a sound installation by Alvin Lucier Notes on the work: During the summer of 2003, the composer captured the acoustic signatures of 21 indoor and outdoor spaces in Ostrava, Czech Republic, by bursting balloons in each space and recording the results. Later, in the fall of 2003, he made 12 5-minute field recordings in indoor and outdoor places in New York City. Listening through headphones, 5 musicians from Ensemble Sospeso, including violin, cello, oboe, clarinet, and percussion, imitated the sounds of field recordings, recording them as they did so. Using the technique of Impulse Response, each recording was played into one of the acoustic signatures, stored in a computer. For example, the sounds of Grand Central Station are heard in a hotel room sink. The results were subject to reiterative process until all vestiges of the instrumental sounds were eliminated. All that remained were the resonances of the stored spaces. Places was commissioned by Meet The Composer for The Ensemble Sospeso in conjunction with Engine 27 and engineered by Joe. This installation is the New York premiere. Notes written by the composer October 7, 2005


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La Monte Young 70th Birthday Celebration

mit Charles Curtis, Michael J. Schumacher, Catherine Christer Hennix, Alvin Lucier