Thursday, 8 November 2007

Tony Conrad - Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain

In music, Conrad was an early (though not original) member of the Theater of Eternal Music, nicknamed "The Dream Syndicate," which included John Cale, Angus MacLise, La Monte Young, and Marian Zazeela, and utilized just intonation and sustained sound to produce what the group called "dream music." Conrad created the naming scheme for the intervals used today by most musicians involved in just intonation, a tuning system based on the usage of fundamental tones derived from the harmonic series of a single fundamental and thereby based on nature rather than an arbitrary division of the octave.

The Theater of Eternal Music performed compositions by La Monte Young, in which other performers sustained harmonically related pitches for the duration of each piece as Young performed complex improvisations on saxophone or voice. In recent years, Conrad has characterized those works as collaboration for which he, Angus MacLise, and John Cale should share authorship credit. These views remain a source of contention for Conrad and, to a lesser extent, Cale among the former participants in the group.

Conrad's first musical release, and only release for many years, was a collaboration with the German "Krautrock" group Faust, "Outside the Dream Syndicate," published by Caroline (UK) in 1973. This remains his best known musical work and is considered a classic of minimal music.

Recently, Conrad has composed more than a dozen audio works with special scales and tuning for solo amplified violin with amplified strings. Recent releases include "Early Minimalism Volume 1," a four-CD set, "Slapping Pythagoras", "Four Violins" (recorded in the 60s), "Outside the Dream Syndicate - Alive" (with Faust, from London 1995), and "Fantastic Glissando". He also issued two archival CDs featuring the work of late New York filmmaker Jack Smith, with whom he was associated in the 1960s.

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