La Monte Young

  • Excerpt from the manuscript for November, by Dennis Johnson, 1959.
    passages January 22, 2019

    Dennis Johnson (1938–2018)

    I WAS WALKING DOWN THE HALL on the second floor of the music building at UCLA when I heard someone playing the Webern Variations for Piano. I was surprised that anyone in the UCLA music department knew who Webern was, so I opened the door and there was this young man sitting at the piano. He turned out to be Dennis Johnson, a new transfer to UCLA from Caltech. I had learned about Webern from Leonard Stein, Schoenberg’s disciple, with whom I was studying counterpoint and composition at that time, and I encouraged Dennis to take private lessons with him as well.

    This was the beginning of a long-term

  • La Monte Young

    EARLY ON, Judson Memorial Church was a place where we felt we had a lot of control, because the pastor, Al Carmines, had a creative attitude. It was a pretty big space, and Al gave us free rein, and that was the very nice thing about the Judson performances. By the early 1960s, I was already a well-known figure in New York because of the performances of “Compositions 1960,” Poem for Chairs, Tables, Benches, etc., and 2 Sounds, all from 1960. So people let me have my way with things.

    In the summer of 1960, before I came to New York from California, I gave a class at Anna Halprin’s home in Marin

  • Walter De Maria, Instrument for La Monte Young, 1966, aluminum, contact microphones, Eurorack MX 602A mixer, 3 1/2 x 36 x 5".

    Walter De Maria

    WALTER WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST ARTISTS OF ALL TIME. I knew Walter longer, perhaps, than anyone in the established art world as we have come to know it. He and I were graduate students at UC Berkeley in the late 1950s. I was notorious on campus. Terry Riley has written about the impact I made as a musician there, and Michael Commons, now a behavioral psychologist at Harvard, claims that when I walked across the Berkeley campus, absolutely everyone stopped and stared.

    I do not remember exactly how we got together, but Walter no doubt knew me through the noon concerts that I presented in Hertz Hall.


    IT IS AN HONOR to write about Karlheinz Stockhausen, since he was my hero in the late ’50s. I was perhaps predisposed to twelve-tone technique because my high school harmony teacher, Clyde Sorenson, had studied at UCLA with Arnold Schönberg. I also took classes at LA City College from 1953 until 1957 under Leonard Stein, the noted pianist and former assistant to Schönberg.

    Leonard was very kind to me and took me under his wing. He selected which recordings of Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Bartók, Schönberg, Berg, and Webern I should listen to and pulled them from the music department library, along