La Monte Young:

            La Monte Young is a 20th Century composer whose work makes audiences think about what exactly makes up music.  He was born in a log cabin in Idaho on October 14, 1935, and began playing his first instrument, the saxophone, when he was three years old.  Growing up, he listened to the wind and to the crickets outside his cabin, along with the humming of power plant generators near the place his father worked.  All of these sounds helped inspire Young to write his first major work, called Trio for Strings.  Like the sound of a power plant that never shuts down, Trio contains extremely long notes, some over 40 measures long!

            While many of La Monte's works experimented with strange sounds, some had no sound at all.  Around the year 1960, Young composed many short pieces that often did not have any written notes or rhythms.  Instead, they had pieces of poetry or instructions for the performer that could be very easy or extremely difficult.  These works were grouped together under the title Compositions: 1960.  The songs in Compositions:  1960 were composed in order to create discussion about the meaning of music.  Some questions one might ask about these songs are: "Does there need to be a sound in order for something to be music?"  "How important is silence to music?"  "If something creates a sound too soft for an audience to hear (like a butterfly's wings flapping), does that sound exist?"  These questions are difficult to answer, but they guarantee that people will be talking about La Monte Young's music for a long time.


Compositions: 1960,  #5

    “Turn a butterfly (or any number of butterflies) loose in the performance area.”



Compositions: 1960,  #10

"Draw a straight line and follow it."



Compositions: 1960,  #13

    "The performer should prepare any composition and then perform it as well as he can."



Compositions: 1960,  #15

    "This piece is little whirlpools out in the middle of the ocean.”