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Draw a Straight Line and Follow ItThe Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young$
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Jeremy Grimshaw

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199740208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199740208.001.0001

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Space Exploration, Part 2

Space Exploration, Part 2

Mormon Cosmology and The Well-Tuned Piano

Chapter:
5 Space Exploration, Part 2
Source:
Draw a Straight Line and Follow It
Author(s):

Jeremy Grimshaw

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199740208.003.0006

This chapter uses one of Young’s most important formative influences, namely, the Mormon faith in which he was raised, to explore one of his most important works, The Well-Tuned Piano. This examination draws on observations by Erich Robert Paul, James Faulconer, and others, about the “scientistic” culture that emerges from Mormonism’s materialist cosmology; the analysis of The Well-Tuned Piano views Young’s unique tuning system, and its performative unfolding, through the narrative lens of the esoteric Mormon soteriological idea of Kolob. This chapter also considers the rhetorical tropes Young uses to describe his tuning theories—tropes emphasizing the “truth” of ratio-based intervals vs. the acoustical inferiority of equal temperament—as manifestations of the pervasive Mormon themes of apostasy and restoration. It even finds those themes in music by other composers who both work in just intonation and come from Mormon backgrounds, including James Tenney, Ervin Wilson, and others.

Keywords:   Ervin Wilson, just intonation, Mormonism, Mormon materialism, Kolob, James Tenney

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