The EMC Blog

Change to Fizzle gig, 2 October 2012

Something from our mate Mike in Birmingham:

Hi everyone,

Unfortunately ORE have had to cancel their performance at Fizzle tomorrow due to illness.
Instead of the gig planned there will be an open ‘jam’ session.

This event will start around 8:30pm at The Lamp Tavern and will be free entry.

Appologies for this change but dont worry ORE will be back next year!

More Fizzle info at

thanks, mike

ORE else….. (The open jams can be very nice, especially when they’re damson ones on toasted rye).

Young/Zazeela/Dream House Anniversary Season

It’s their 20th year:
Dream House Opens for the 2012-2013 Season – Our 20th Year

La Monte Young     Marian Zazeela

Dream House

Sound and Light Environment

Extended Exhibition at MELA Foundation

275 Church Street, 3rd Floor
between Franklin and White Streets in Tribeca

Saturday, September 22, 2012 continuing through Saturday, June 15, 2013
Open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 2:00 PM to Midnight

Contribution $6.00.  Information 212-925-8270; 212-219-3019
Subways: #1 train to Franklin Street / A, E / N, R / #6 trains to Canal Street

Dream House, a collaborative Sound and Light Environment by composer La Monte Young and visual artist Marian Zazeela, is presented in an extended exhibition at MELA Foundation, 275 Church Street, 3rd Floor.  The environment is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 2:00 PM to Midnight.  Suggested contribution is $6.00.  The long-term exhibition opened in Fall 1993 and will continue for this season through June 15, 2013, reopening again in September 2013.

Young and Zazeela characterize the Sound and Light Environment as “a time installation measured by a setting of continuous frequencies in sound and light.”  In the light environment Marian Zazeela presents four works, two environmental:  Imagic Light and Magenta Day, Magenta Night, in installations specifically designed for the site; and two sculptural:  the neon work, Dream House Variation I, and the wall sculpture, Ruine Window 1992 from her series, Still Light.  In the environment Imagic Light, Zazeela projects pairs of colored lights on mobile forms to create seemingly three-dimensional colored shadows in a luminous field.

In the concurrent sound environment, La Monte Young presents The Base 9:7:4 Symmetry in Prime Time When Centered above and below The Lowest Term Primes in The Range 288 to 224 with The Addition of 279 and 261 in Which The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped above and Including 288 Consists of The Powers of 2 Multiplied by The Primes within The Ranges of 144 to 128, 72 to 64 and 36 to 32 Which Are Symmetrical to Those Primes in Lowest Terms in The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped below and Including 224 within The Ranges 126 to 112, 63 to 56 and 31.5 to 28 with The Addition of 119, a periodic composite sound waveform environment created from sine wave components generated digitally in real time on a custom-designed Rayna interval synthesizer.

Both artists are presenting works utilizing concepts of structural symmetry.  Zazeela’s mobile forms are arrayed in symmetrical patterns with lights placed in precisely symmetrical positions creating symmetrical colored shadows; the wall-mounted light sculpture and the neon are both symmetrical forms.  Young’s sound environment is composed of frequencies tuned to the harmonic series between 288 and 224, utilizing numbers with factors of only 9, or those primes or octave transpositions of smaller primes that fall within this range.  The interval 288/256 reduces to a 9/8 interval as does the interval 252/224.  Thirty-two frequencies satisfy the above definition, of which seventeen fall within the range of the upper, and fourteen fall within the range of the lower of these two symmetrical 9/8 intervals.  Young has arranged these thirty-one frequencies in a unique constellation, symmetrical above and below the thirty-second frequency, the center harmonic 254 (the prime 127 x 2).

Young has stated that:  “This is my newest and most radical sound environment; the Rayna synthesizer has made it possible to realize intervals that are derived from such high primes that, not only is it unlikely that anyone has ever worked with these intervals before, it is also highly unlikely that anyone has ever heard them or perhaps even imagined the feelings they create.”

In 1966, Young and Zazeela pioneered the concept of the continuous sound and light environment, and have since presented more than thirty large-scale sound and light productions in museums and galleries worldwide for continuous periods from one week to twenty years, including installations in the Metropolitan Museum, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; documenta 5, Kassel; Kunstverein, Cologne; Dia Art Foundation, New York; Kunst im Regenbogenstadl, Polling; Guggenheim Museum, New York; MELA Foundation, New York.

Young and Zazeela write: “The July 1969 Sound and Light Environment at Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich, was our first public short-term Dream House.  Under a long-term commission from the Dia Art Foundation (1979-85) we collaborated on a Dream House presentation at 6 Harrison Street, New York, set in a six-story building with a nine-story tower featuring multiple inter-related sound and light environments, exhibitions, performances, research facilities and archives.  This was perhaps our most creative installation because for the first time we actually had substantial space available to realize our ideas.  The Regenbogenstadl Dream House in Polling, Bavaria, opened in 2000 and is intended to exist as long as possible.  It has become very highly evolved, presenting a wide range of Dream House elements, while the MELA Foundation Dream House Sound and Light Environment at 275 Church Street, New York, now in its twentieth year, is our longest installation to date.  The various incarnations of our site-specific sound and light environment installations around the world, such as the 2010 expansion at Regenbogenstadl in celebration of the 1000 year anniversary of the village of Polling, with two symmetrically placed pairs of mobiles in a configuration of The Magenta Lights and a sound environment of The Opening Chord in The Magenta Lights entrance gallery, The Magic Chord in the far video-screening gallery, and the acoustical mix in the center Still Light gallery to create The Magic Opening Chord, demonstrate the eternal evolution of the Dream House, a work ‘with a life and tradition of its own,’ continuing into time ‘with a capacity to propel itself by its own momentum.’”

In Minimalism:Origins (Indiana University Press, 1993), Edward Strickland wrote of their collaborative environments:  “Intense light [is] aimed through [color] filters at quasicalligraphic aluminum shapes hung by ultrafine filaments.  The effect is a unique and extraordinary transvaluation of perception: the mobiles seem to hover unanchored, while the shadows they cast in various hues attain an apparent solidity against the light-dissolved walls equal to their literally palpable but apparently disembodied sources.  Like Young’s music, to which it serves as an almost uncanny complement, Zazeela’s work is predicated upon the extended duration necessary to experience the nuances which are its essence.”  The one-year sound and light environment collaboration, The Romantic Symmetry (over a 60 cycle base) in Prime Time from 112 to 144 with 119 / Time Light Symmetry (Dia Art Foundation, 22nd Street, NYC 1989), was described by Village Voice critic Kyle Gann as “some of the strangest and most forward-looking art New York has to offer.”

The 1990 Paris Donguy Gallery Dream House environment now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) Lyon was featured in the 2004-05 Sons et Lumiéres at Centre Pompidou and the Lyon Biennial 2005.  In Artforum, Tim Griffin drew connections between the New York and Lyon installations:  “For the majority of compelling pieces here were the older ones, among them a few whose very appearance dramatized that vertiginous sense arising when objects from different eras come into incongruously close contact.  (“Time does not pass,” Bourriaud writes of the effect, “it ‘percolates’”).  In this department first honors must be awarded to La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House,1993.  At its location in the Tribeca section of New York City, this roomful of infinitely repeating cycles of sound and light frequencies is a veritable wormhole in the urban fabric.  (Outside it is 2006; inside it seems perpetually 1985, the year Young and Zazeela’s MELA Foundation opened its doors.  It has since maintained an artist’s-loft sensibility once indigenous to the area.)  Relocated to the cavernous industrial space of La Sucrière, however, the piece created other wrinkles in time, seeming at once placed at the cultural roots of European rave and trance culture—indeed, Lyon artistic director Thierry Raspail told me that Young obtained the very latest subwoofers for the occasion (the deep pulses raising the roof and making the floor feel ready to cave in)—and also utterly futuristic.  Indifferent to Young’s deafening drones was the medieval architecture along the Saône river, visible through the installation’s tinted windows.”

Die Tageszeitung wrote about Young and Zazeela’s 1992 DAAD Ruine der Künste, Berlin environment:  “A longer stay in the Dream House is necessary to experience the full effect.  The mind is calmed by the environment in a meditative way, and subtle sound and light effects that are veiled at first sight then come to the fore.”  Of the current environment, Sandy McCroskey wrote in 1/1, “Zazeela’s light sculptures have invariably, teasingly refused to surrender their entire secret to photographic reproduction, so much do they depend on the retinal impact of activated photons in real time and so much do they exploit, in ways analogous to Young’s techniques, the creation of visual combination tones and an accumulation of after-images.”

In Architectural Design (Wiley, Vol. 78 No.3, May-June 2008), Ted Krueger described his experience with the interaction of the illuminated mobiles and the sound environment in the Dream House:  “The spirals’ ultra-slow spin is induced by air currents from a viewer’s movements or thermal differences in the room.  This creates a slowly changing composition of shadows and objects in varying intensities of contrasting hues. … [Henry] Flynt notes that the rare drift into compositional alignment by these dynamically independent objects implies a time scale that can encompass an infinite series of permutations.  The group on the north glides momentarily into an approximate bilateral symmetry, and I check the alignment of the group on the other side.  Given the scale of the room, the compositions on both sides cannot be compared in a single view, and as I look to the other side I sweep my head through a melody.  The interplay between movement and stasis, of sound and light, directly integrates these works.  Each becomes the context for the other.”

Charles Curtis wrote in “Incomprehensible Space” (OASE #78, Journal for Architecture, 2009): “Dream House renders sound as that which it truly is, audible space…That sound can stand in a kind of complementarity between all of its parts without sacrificing the meaningfulness of even the smallest of those parts is the revelation of Dream House.”  NFT (Not For Tourists), the insider’s guide to New York City 2011, declared the Dream House, “one of New York City’s greatest treasures,” “a Tribeca Landmark” and “one of the coolest long-running sound and light installations in the world.”

In The Brooklyn Rail (June 2003), Nick Stillman wrote:  “The Dream House can inspire sincere self-reflection—of how people physically move, of how little time there is for stillness, of how we’ve become trained to seek and to reward movement and action.  To embrace the Dream House is to become entranced and lost in time.  And with no permanent closing date established for Young and Zazeela’s collaborative installation, this could be the dream that never ends.”

For further information, email or visit
MELA’s programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and by generous contributions from foundations, individuals and MELA Members.


Dunmall/Levin/Brice at Fizzle in Brum

Mike Hurley sends news of the new Fizzle season:

Fizzle at The Lamp Tavern, Barford St, B5 6AH. £5/3. 8:30pm start.

18th September
Paul Dunmall/Miles Levin/Olie Brice
This trio formed by drummer Miles Levin includes London based bass player Olie Brice and possibly the worlds greatest sax player Paul Dunmall who has worked with Alice Coltrane, Jonny Guitar Watson and many more.

More stuff at
find us on twitter


Bryars on Cage

In the BBC Radio 4 programme, Archive on 4, John Cage – Composing Controversy, hosted by Gavin Bryars, Gavin interviews a number of people associated with Cage, including Caroline Brown and Christian Wolff. The show also benefits from a number of archive recordings of Cage and the people who knew him. Interviewees include some surprising choices, including the comedian Stewart Lee (who performed Cage’s Indeterminacy), John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin, and Brian Eno. Cage fans will know a lot of the stuff here, but it’s presented so well that it was consistently fascinating.

The online ‘Listen Again’ window for this has passed, unfortunately, but you can see a summary here, and perhaps catch it when it is repeated: .

Westward by Iceberg

The EMC must admit that it doesn’t work on the best experimental music 24/7. Occasionally it watches the odd sporting contest. The other day, whilst watching the US Open, we saw a commercial for Dassault Systemes, a kind of data imaging software company, which proposed to find a way of moving icebergs from the polar regions to areas of the earth that need fresh water, following a theory proposed by the engineer Georges Mougin. You can see a lot on this proposal at: .

iceberg being towed in dassauly systemes simulation

But the Scratch Orchestra got there first, in the concert ‘The Journey of the Isle of Wight Westward by Iceberg to Tokyo Bay’, a research project proposed by Brecht & McDiarmid Research Associates (yes, that George Brecht!) and delivered sonically by the Scratch Orchestra at the Chelsea Town Hall, 15 November 1969. In this realisation, individual SO members researched aspects of the project and performed them simultaneously. You can read about this in John Tilbury’s book, Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished (Matching Tye, Essex: Copula, 2008), p. 391. In Michael Parsons’ article ‘The Scratch Orchestra and Visual Arts’, Leonardo Music Journal, volume 11 (2001), 5–11, Parsons described how Christopher Hobbs ‘tolled a deep bell at regular intervals to warn of the island’s progress’. Frank Regan and Roger Wright provided feedback with a Uher tape recorder, and, writes Tilbury, ‘There was joyous celebration when the equator was crossed’.

Now that Dassault Systemes has caught up with the Scratch Orchestra, they might want to go the whole hog — how are they going to detach the Isle of Wight? Obviously just a technicality: we’ll be looking for garlic festivals and regattas in Tokyo Bay very soon!

Reminder: Dave Smith concert, 7 September, London

Dave sends us a reminder of his giant concert of little (mostly one-minute) pieces:

Dear all,

A reminder of the 1st performance of Dave Smith’s 10th Piano Concert at 6.30
(note starting time) on Friday 7th September at Schotts Recital Room, 48
Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7BB.

It consists of 75 pieces, each of which lasts about a minute.

Best wishes


Hope to see you there!

A mynah bird in a majah role

The San Franciso Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant-Garde, ed. David Bernstein (Berkeley: UC Press, 2008) may not have enough about the SF counterculture for some — it is less a history of the movement as a whole than an oral history and collection of memories by the members of the SF Tape Center itself. But as an oral history, it contains some really good anecdotes of the group and period in question. For instance, when we were students, Barney Childs used to regale us with a tale about Ahmed the mynah bird. Pauline Oliveros improvised with a mynah bird called Ahmed, he said, and when Ahmed chose to speak, it was part of the piece. It made me want to go out and buy mynah birds. Instead, I used my pet budgie, Furd the Burd, as a sound source in my first tape piece (I sprinkled budgie seed on a metal baking pan, under which was hidden a mic, and let Furd walk round on it, eating the seed and chirping). But a mynah bird would have been awesome.

The full story is that Pauline Oliveros, a long-time accordionist, found that David Tudor was learning bandoneon (Mauricio Kagel put him onto the instrument), so she began writing a piece for the two of them to play on the Tudorfest, which she put on in 1964. Two things affected Oliveros’ plan: the first was that Laurel Johnson’s mynah bird Ahmed insisted on taking part in their rehearsals. She accommodated Ahmed, turning the accordion and bandoneon duo into Duo for Accordion and Bandoneon with Possible Mynah Bird Obbligato. The second thing was the choreography/staging by Elizabeth Harris. According to Oliveros (in Bernstein, p. 86):

We needed a way to stage this trio. I invited Elizabeth Harris to do the staging. Elizabeth asked, “How would you like to play the piece on a seesaw?” David and I innocently agreed. Elizabeth turned up at 321 Divisidero [the SF Tape Center] with a large, handsome seesaw mounted on a turntable. The seesaw went up and down around and had swivel seats. She placed Ahmed’s cage in a mobile suspended above the centre of the seesaw. I swallowed hard and abandoned the written score that I had composed and decided on improvisational instructions. After experimenting with the possible motions of the seesaw, we needed some choreography. Elizabeth provided the choreographic instructions. Davis and I both had to work very hard to integrate this new element of performance. I had to employ a safety belt to negotiate the swivel chair because of the imbalance of the motion of my accordion bellows. David could centre on the seat with the bandoneon without a safety belt since the bellows were bidirectional. Slowly, we gained some control of the seesaw and began to enjoy it. The motions of the seesaw served to project and spatialize the sound of our instruments in all directions as we flew around on the seesaw and turned in the swivel seats.

Ahmed, plunged into darkness due to Tony Martin’s light show, became uncharacteristically quiet for the premiere. ‘The second night’, said Oliveros, ‘we decided to let Ahmed make the first sound. That strategy worked and the audience was delighted with the mynah bird obbligato! [Bernstein, p. 87]’ The effect of Harris’ staging would have been amazing — and possibly it would be illegal now in terms of health and safety. Stuart Dempster told Thomas M. Welsh in the same book (p. 257) about its capacity for danger, as well as its unique spatial sound qualities:

That was incredible. The seesaw was built by Elizabeth Harris, and presumably designed by her, and it was on a big circle pedestal. It was quite huge. I would saw it was twelve feet across, at least. It was built so that it went up and down like a teeter-totter normally does, but it also would go around in a circle at the same time. So you get these kinds of “ellipticals’. Each seat was also able to turn around on its own. Well, [during] the first rehearsal, Pauline fell off, so they put seat belts on the seats after that. And it was really dramatic. I remember going to the rehearsal and the concert and I sat fairly far down front so the teeter-totter would actually come right over my head, so it was kind of this revolving stereo and then suddenly back-front stereo and up-and-down stereo as well. So it was as close as you could get to what we would now call spherical stereo. I don’t think there was anything like it that I’ve ever run across since.

This is a ‘wow’ factor on many fronts. Harris’ creation is absolutely amazing to read about (does anyone know about her? I can only find her work with these composers and possibly with Pauline Koner?). It would be amazing to experience this piece as an audience member. But no way would it be good to perform! Dempster’s description of the sound reminds me that Henry Brant (a composer who specialised in spatialization) once said that he would put his performers on roller coasters and other fairground rides to get the sound movement, except that the players would get sick. So ‘wow’ to Pauline Oliveros and David Tudor for their bravery in the cause of performance.

But above all, because as an animal, he didn’t have to do it, a big ‘wow’ to Ahmed the mynah bird.

Hobbs Word Pieces 1966–1970

This should be fun. Chris Hobbs, the composer and founder of the Experimental Music Catalogue, has put together a collection of all of his Word Pieces, and is offering them in pdf format through the EMC. And for free.

This collection represents most of Chris Hobbs’ compositions in the years 1966–1970, and all of the ones that he wrote in verbal text notation (also called text or instruction pieces). Most of these pieces were published with pieces by Hugh Shrapnel, Phil Gebbitt, Gavin Bryars, and Robert Ashley, in the popular EMC Verbal Anthology.  Other Word Pieces appeared in the Visual and Scratch Anthologies. But the EMC in those days published music in typescript. But Chris decided to set his entire output from those years in computer fonts.

Chris first wrote One Note 1966 in common musical notation, but its finished version is in text notation. It has the same sparseness as La Monte Young’s early minimalism in its limited pitch and plentiful rests. As such, One Note 1966 is the first ‘minimal’ or static minimalist piece in British music. Other pieces, such as Song 1 and Song 2 — in which the text is presented as graphic, or pictorial, notation — benefit from the greater degree of precision offered by the computer typescript. There are pieces here for instrumental ensembles, for electronics, even those that are more conceptual.

If you like the historical feature of a facsimile document of the original publication, we offer the Verbal Anthology in our EMC Catalogue List. We have been unable as of yet to gain permissions to reproduce the entirety of the Scratch Anthology of Compositions and the Visual Anthology, so this is the only place to get these pieces. One piece, Can you hear me mother?, was written for the small journal Crab Grass, and is published here. One, Now, Karl, play some of your own music, has never been published before.

Chris specifically asked that we offer these pieces in this format for free. What he wants is to have some dialogue about music, and to get these pieces out to those who want to play them. All you have to do is to send us an email to questions** (for the **, substitute @), and we will send you the pdf. I’d also suggest that if you enjoy these pieces, and especially if you decide to play one, get in touch with Chris—chobbs** —and let him know!