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The Sound Barrier: Sunday, 6 January 2019

Artist | Track/Song Name | Album Title | Label/Distributor | Comments

Tonight's show features excerpts from only one work, with commentary in between.

La Monte Young | The Well-Tuned Piano 81 X 25 (6:17:50 - 11:18:59) | La Monte Young | Gramavision Records


  1. The Opening Chord | ca 10'00"
  2. Transition from the Magic Chord to the Magic Opening Chord | ca 15'00"
  3. The Magic Harmonic Rainforest Chord (from the Interlude of the Wind and the Waves) | ca 13'00"
  4. The Chorale Theme and the Romantic Chord | ca 8'00"
  5. The Elysian Fields (from near Low Cloud in the Elysian Fields) until The Ending (The Opening Chord and Final Dyad) | ca 45'00"

Tonight's commentary was informed by:

Album liner notes (texts by Terry Riley, Marian Zazeela, and La Monte Young)
Kyle Gann, 'La Monte Young's The Well-Tuned Piano', Perspectives of New Music (Winter 1993) 31:1, 134-162
Brandon W Joseph, Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Artys after Cage, Zone Books, New York (2011).

As usual, you can check out the blog if you would like to read a little bit more about tonight's music.

The Sound Barrier for Sunday, 6 January 2019

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Low bandwidth:

The Sound Barrier Well-Tunes its foray into 2019

As a companion show to last weekend's edition of The Sound Barrier, this weekend I will be following the same format and bringing you an in-depth study of La Monte Young's seminal The Well-Tuned Piano, originally conceived in 1964. This huge and famous work for solo piano is inspired by the archetypal figures of Eastern mysticism. It is based on the score's guided improvisation of a series of chords built from the harmonics of a single note, several octaves below the lowest note of a piano, and the piano's tuning then informed by the partials of that note.

The result is both a uniquely-sounding piano and a unique piece of music, spanning five hours, in music that ebbs and flows in a time-frame that visits us from the beyond.

As with last week's presentation of Dennis Johnson's November, on this week's show I will be bringing you major excerpts of the work, along with some explanations of its form and significance.

La Monte Young attributed his inspiration for this extraordinary work to Dennis Johnson's piece, composed five years earlier. Both pieces remain forever open – La Monte Young himself describing The Well-Tuned Piano as work in which the performance of it is never finished, and each performance is itself a new compositional iteration of the work. The version I will be bringing you this weekend is La Monte Young's astonishing performance in New York City on 25 October 1985.

I hope you can join me this Sunday night at 10 PM (AEDT) to share the experience of this amazing work. As always you can listen live both online and on the radio (106.7 on the Melbourne FM band), as well as afterwards to the audio archive here on the PBS website.

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