This introduction summarizes prior research on La Monte Young’s work, briefly outlines a historiography of minimalism and describes the challenges that arise in studying his music. Because of Young’s avoidance of normal modes of music distribution (music publishers, record labels, etc.), and his tight control over performances, it is difficult to access even his most important works. The research for this book thus required on-site archival work at Young’s residence. As it turned out, working in close proximity to Young meant that the research took on a strong ethnographic component, treating him and his partner, Marian Zazeela, as a culture of two. The nature of his compositional practices also necessitated an analytical approach steeped in acoustics and psychoacoustics. However, Young’s scientistic approach to acoustics comes packaged in layers of mystical/cosmological rhetoric and biographical reminiscence. Understanding his work thus also requires an understanding of his biography as well as his various spiritual influences, including his native Mormonism, psychedelia, and Vedic thought. This introduction establishes a methodological framework for analyzing these various intersecting influences, and also establishes the author’s position in relation to this influences—particularly the issue of Young’s Mormon background.
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