Or how a Californian, avant-garde and hippie composer, influenced the hard and urban sound of New Yorkers: The Velvet Underground and also the much softer sound of Michael Nyman.


Those of us who grew up with rock (also with jazz and some other folklore, in my case), when, around the 70's, we discovered the group The Velvet Underground, usually with the help of its main composer and singer: Lou Reed, we read in the biographies that the greatest influence on the Welsh viola and bass player, John Cale, was La Monte Young. But who was La Monte Young? Mysteriously, the music magazines not dedicated to the classical music of the time ignored the figure of him or -in the best of cases- defined him as a "contemporary composer" (something that -for rockers- made us quickly lose interest in the figure of the).

According to Wikipedia: La Monte Thornton Young (Bern, Idaho, October 14, 1935) is an American composer and musician, generally recognized as the first minimalist composer. His works have been included among the most important and radical works after the Second World War, described as avant-garde, experimental music or drone music. Both his proto-Fluxus and minimalist compositions question the nature and definition of music and often include typical performance elements. He has composed works with only one note in 1960 .

(that is: it tells us your age, place of birth and little else…).

However, he was someone capable of -in 1960 and without being arrested for it- writing works such as:

“Bring a straw bale and a bucket of water on stage for the piano to eat and drink. The player can then feed the piano or let it eat for itself. In the first case, the work ends when the piano has been fed. In the last one, it's over after the piano eats or decides not to."


(Question: Are we sure the Stenways are vegetarians?).

One of La Monte Young's scores

At the same time, his NON-FLUXUS or NON-CONCEPTUAL compositions, the strictly "musical" ones, that is to say, those that were performed live in a university and intellectual environment, but influenced by the psychedelia in force in the 60's, all have a great mystical/ repetitive. They are not exactly "easy to listen to", but they have an extreme depth, an "ecstatic" character linked to the classical music of India, or the East (of which Young was a great lover and connoisseur).

La Monte Young + Marian Zazeela in the The Theatre Of Eternal Music in 1974

It is said of Young that he was a "precursor" of minimalist music, that wave that invaded us in the 70/80's, trying to varnish music for elevators with intellectuality. A "movida", harmonically boring and full of artificial sweeteners, which -as expected- triumphed in the Western pop music circuits, especially because of the large amount of sugar that it contained in its composition. I wouldn't want to know Young's opinion on -for example- the soundtrack of “The Cartoonist's Contract” (on the other hand: a nice movie, if you can stand the music…)

For those who don't know what we're talking about: Trailer of The Cartoonist's Contract, with music by M. Nyman, a minimalist composer from the 80s...

The Velvet Underground – Black Angels Death Song

In this article from the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanism of the University of Buenos Aires, (IDIS Project) the trajectory of La Monte Young is detailed and links to very valuable information are even provided, such as his "Selected Writings" writings collected by him and his partner Marian Zazeela.


And this article from The Guardian tells, through an interview, the current situation of this genius and his self-demand for quality: