Actions Sing Louder Than Notes
Purpose: To compose a piece using the anti-music composition style of La Monte Young.
Standards: Evaluating music and music performances.
Materials: Written copies of Compositions: 1960.
Student biography of La Monte Young
Preparation: Pass out copies of the student biography on La Monte Young and Compositions: 1960. Have students read the biography and compositions. Discuss what Young was trying to achieve with these pieces; do they truly consist of music? Poetry? Why do you think Young created such odd instructions as feeding a piano or pushing a piano through a wall? What does a performer do while waiting?
1. Tell students to write their name on a piece of paper. Explain that they will
think of an action to be performed in the manner of Compositions: 1960. The
student may give any direction he/she wishes as long as the following criteria are
a. Any materials needed for the piece must be present in the room.
b. The piece must be open-ended; for example, “Pick up the book and set it
down on the floor beside you” would not work because it is too specific about
the end result. “Pick up the book and carry it,” or “Take the book where it
wants to go,” would be better because the end of the action is determined by
c. The piece should be no more than two sentences.
d. The piece should have a title.
2. Give the students about 4-5 minutes to come up with a piece, making sure they do
not share their work with anyone else. Once all students are finished, collect their
3. On another sheet of paper, have the students write a quick, but specific, description
about what they think their pieces will look like when performed. They should be
clear about what areas of the room will be used, how long they think their pieces
will be, etc.
4. Pass out the compositions to different students. Have the students perform the
work they have been given. Students should announce the name of the composer,
but not the action.
5. Students not performing should write down what directions they think are in the
piece. The composer should compare/contrast the performer’s interpretation to
his/her own idea of what the work would look like. What differences are there?
As the composer, what do you think of the performer’s interpretation?
6. When finished, students should pass the pieces back to their composers. Have
them attach their pieces to their performance observations, and then turn them in.
Assessment: Students successfully create an anti-music piece based on the instructed criteria.
Students critically compare their the performers’ interpretation to their own
intentions for the work.