Posts Tagged ‘La Monte Young


Ornamental Lightyears Tracery

I found myself interested again in Turner’s paintings again today.

Why? Color– the modulation of color-tones.  Color not as paint-color but as light-color.  Light-color that changes in an enviornment with respect either to movement or time.

Marian Zazeela, who not only is one of the most beautiful singers I have ever heard, but is also a criminally underappreciated artist.  She works in light, light filtered through additive synthesis.  In paint, colors added together darken.  In her work, in light, colors added together brighten– the possibility of pure white, all colors together.  Here is an image of her “Magenta Lights” in the former Dia Dream House.

Her light transforms with the day.  Like the tones of the raga cycle, with one modal scale for dawn another for dusk and another again for midnight (the midnight mode of Raga Malkauns is like a country blues scale, only more demonic).  It reminds me of the unending quality of Ben’s writing, each square touching another and continuing, as well as the frames of Stan Brakhage’s “Dante Quartet” that attends to color with the same devotion.

I began to think about this listening to the harmonium works of Hermann Nitsch, his attempt at a music of the spheres, and looking at images of star-formation in Hubble Telescope images.  The colors rendered by the photos are from light passing through gases.  It is similar to musical tone, which is perceived as vibrations through a gas (air) that moves in time in the inner ear.  The question I ask myself is, besides raga, what music could modulate so slowly and so beautifully its timbres so as to attain this kind of light-movement.


Intonation, beyond affect in song

1.  Singing in tune is not easy.  To aspire towards long, sustained, beatless tones with the voice, moves the singing past personal expressiveness– the materiality of the infinite possibility of scales rises up in the voice.  Singing in tune is not easy.  Roughly 20 cents, 1/10 of an equal-tempered semitone, is the difference between a just Major Third and an equal-tempered one, yet the difference in clarity and consonance is like that between linear perspective and the actual functioning of the eye.  La Monte Young’s “Well-Tuned Piano” is an example of the difference in sound.

2.  The piano as we hear it, its 12 tones and chromatic scale, are fabrications of the industrial revolution.  Its tones are approximations of geometrically exact tunings and musical space.  Just tuning is an art–its scales are aesthetic choices, a choice of structure, an architecture of frequencies.  The equal-tempered piano was produced to make all musics exchangeable.  Qualitative difference of sound, and pitches, vanished.

3.   Neither Bach nor Beethoven composed on equal-tempered pianos.  We don’t hear their music in the concert hall.  Musical education, like all education, is in desperate need of reform.  Music should be studied within a geometric-spatial field, first.  Not as the reproduction of dissonance meant to naturalize untutored ears to equal-tempered scales.

4.  “Voyelles” by Rimbaud.  Even vowel-sounds have specific and qualitatively different timbres.  The study of sound-color as a poetic and literary art lays fallow, since sound is not considered in the most basic musical study as a material in itself.  Just scales, the first production of melodies, where intervals do not repeat, became rigidified in an unmusical, dissonant form so that each step, each key of the piano, would be exactly the same distance apart.

December 2020