PRINT September 2018

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.

It was a pretty big space, and Al Carmines gave us free rein, and that was the very nice thing about the Judson performances.

In the summer of 1960, before I came to New York from California, I gave a class at Anna Halprin’s home in Marin County. John Cage told me to look her up. He said she would be open to my ideas. Anna has a very big dance studio outdoors. She let Terry Riley and me direct music for her. She really liked what we did. The dancers who were in the class—Trisha Brown, Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer, as well as Robert Morris—came to New York and worked with me.

We did a very exciting iteration of my 1960 performance Poem for Chairs, Tables, Benches, etc. at Judson on January 29, 1963. The work requires people who can push tables around, and I mostly used dancers and artists with whom I had already worked. There was a lot of opposition to my noise pieces early on, but dancers and artists were very open-minded about what I did, and they were more available, too.

The following day, I performed my Arabic Numeral (Any Integer) to H.F. (1960), a work for which a performer chooses a number and a sound or a chord and then plays it that number of times. Bob Morris had asked Mark di Suvero to build him a gong. To my surprise, he had it there and presented it to me. For the first performance, I hit it with a padded mallet. After that, I bowed it with a bass bow, because I thought the mallet was too primitive. I distinctly remember that Bob came up to me as things were going on and asked if he could bring out Marian Zazeela in a wheelbarrow, nude in the manner of an odalisque. I said no, so it didn’t happen.

La Monte Young is a composer based in New York