Volume 40 Number 1

Richard Fleming and William Duckworth (Eds.)

Sound and Light: La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela

1996
231 pages
ISBN 0838753469
Bucknell Review

Now in paperback

La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela have been pursuing their art from more than three decades. Together, they have created large-scale works for light and sound of many hours' duration - full of slow-moving microtonal sounds bathed in magenta hues and shadows - that have influenced styles as diverse as the Velvet Underground and Minimalism. Yet many people outside the experimental circles in music and art are unfamiliar with their work. This issue of the Bucknell Review is the first full-length book on their work. It introduces Young and Zazeela to those unfamiliar with them, as well as providing the more acquainted reader with new and useful insights and analyses of the fundamental issues of their life and work. The book explores the reoccurring themes that have influenced and organized Young and Zazeela's ongoing engagement with sound and light. These themes include the appreciation of nature and its natural shapes and sounds; the importance of mathematics and organizing tuning systems based on natural harmonics; enhanced attention spans and increases sensitivity to differenced within apparent sameness; extensions of time, and alterations of space. An introductory article by the composer Terry Riley begins the books. Written in 1967, it provides an early glimpse of Young by a friend of long standing and a useful entry into Young and Zazeela's current world of sound and light. John Schaefer then provides a context for how best to listen to Young's music, while Henry Flynt discusses Young's contribution to and influence on the avant-garde world of New York in the early 1960s. Completing these biographical-based essays, Riley writes about the importance of the North Indian classical singer Pandit Pran Nath in the lives and work of Young and Zazeela. Focusing on Zazeela's art, Flynt provides discussion on the basic characteristics and implications of her lightworks. This same topic, combined with a specific attention to words and language, received further discussion by Catherine Christer Hennix in her essay, "Language and Light in Marian Zazeela's Art." Mitchell Clark and Kyle Gann then give specific compositional analyses, with Clark discussing Chinese influence on Young through an examination of his Composition 1960 #5, while Gann unfolds and examines the evolution of Young's tuning systems. Ben Neil, in an essay titled "Pure Resonance," addresses the spiritual and meditative aspects of Young's music, while Robert Palmer explores the musical and social implications of the Forever Bad Blues Band, the most recent musical manifestation of Young's lifelong interest in the 12-bar blues. The book then concludes with original source material by Young and Zazeela, focusing on their continuous sound and light environments. The diverse and substantial essays and themes found in this book resist unification, yet they come together and are embodied in the work and lives of the two remarkable individuals around who this book turns: La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela.

Contributors: Terry Riley, John Schaefer, Henry Flynt, Catherine Christer Hennix, Mitchell Clark, Kyle Gann, Ben Neil, and Robert Palmer

About the editors:

Richard Fleming is the John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy (distinguished chair) at Bucknell University. He has taught philosophy and humanities course at Bucknell since 1983 and has received numerous teaching excellence awards. His Bucknell University Press publications include Sound and Light: La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela (edited with William Duckworth, Bucknell Review 40:1, [1997]), and The State of Philosophy, 1993.

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