Product of Culture-Clash: social scene, patronage and group dynamics in the early New York Downtown scene and the Theatre of Eternal Music

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article will explore the background to the establishment of the Downtown avant- garde art and music scene in New York, including a survey of the role of the experimental composer in American music. It will investigate cultural interactions and influences between some of the main players in the early Downtown scene, focusing in particular on the Theatre of Eternal Music (TEM), the ensemble formed in the 1960s by New York-based “founding-father” Minimalist La Monte Young. It will examine some of the cross-pollination which occurred between the group and the environment in which it developed and will briefly survey the manner in which historical accounts have attributed varying degrees of credit to members of the group, along with a brief account of the current dispute between Young on the one hand and Tony Conrad and John Cale on the other.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-21
    JournalMaynooth Musicology (Postgraduate Journal)
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 17 Apr 2008

    Bibliographical note

    Related conference paper presented at the Irish Association of American Studies (IAAS) 2008 Annual Conference, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, April 2008.
    Print journal version published by Maynooth Music Department. Original print version available from Maynooth University and DIT libraries.
    Reference text: Primary Sources:

    Babbitt, Milton: ‘The Composer as Specialist’, Classic Essays on Twentieth Century Music: A Continuing Symposium, ed. Richard Kostelanetz and James Darby (New York: Schirmer, 1996), 161–167, originally published in High Fidelity Magazine (2/1958).
    Bridges, Brian: ‘Rhys Chatham Interview’, Amplified Art-Noise: Amplification, Alternate Tuning and Acoustical Phenomena in the Music of La Monte Young, Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca (Unpublished MPhil diss., University of Dublin, Trinity College, 2003).
    Cale, John and Victor Bockris: What’s Welsh for Zen: The Autobiography of John Cale (London: Bloomsbury, 1999).
    Chinen, Nate: ‘Requiem for a Club: Saxophones and Sighs’, New York Times, 16/4/2007 ( accessed 28/8/07).
    Conrad, Tony: ‘Press Kit’ ( accessed 30/8/07).
    Conrad, ‘Tony Conrad’s Response to An open letter to La Monte Young and Tony Conrad, 2000’ ( accessed 31/8/07).
    Dreyblatt, Arnold: ‘An open letter to La Monte Young and Tony Conrad’, shorter version published in The Wire, 9/2000 ( accessed 31/8/07).
    Duguid, Brian: ‘Interview with Tony Conrad’ ( accessed 7/8/07).
    Experimental Intermedia Foundation: ‘Artists’ ( accessed 9/8/07).
    New School, The: ‘About The New School: History’ (, accessed 31/8/07).
    Young, La Monte: ‘Biographical Information’ ( accessed 21/7/07).
    Young, La Monte:‘Notes on The Theatre of Eternal Music and The Tortoise, His Dreams and Journeys’, written 21/7/00 ( accessed 21/7/07).
    Young, La Monte: ‘Resumé’ (, accessed 31/8/07)
    Young, La Monte: ‘Statement on Table of The Elements CD 74 "Day of Niagara" April 25, 1965’, written 10/7/2000 ( accessed 31/8/07)
    Zazeela, Marian: ‘Education’ ( accessed 9/8/07).
    Zuckerman, Gabrielle, interview with La Monte Young, 7/2002, for ‘American Mavericks’, American Public Media (, accessed 11/8/07).

    Secondary Sources:
    Bregman, Albert S.: Auditory Scene Analysis (Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 1990).
    Bregman, Albert S.: ‘Auditory Scene Analysis: hearing in complex environments’, Thinking in Sound: The Cognitive Psychology of Human Audition, ed. Stephen McAdams and Emmanuel Bigand (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 11–36.
    Fastl, Hugo and Eberhard Zwicker: Psychoacoustics: Facts and Models (3rd edn Berlin, Heidelberg and New York: Springer, 1/1990, 2/1999, 3/2006).
    Gann, Kyle: American Music in the Twentieth Century (New York: Schirmer, 1997). ———: ‘Breaking the Chain Letter: An Essay on Downtown Music’, written 4/1998
    ( accessed 21/07/07).
    Gann, Kyle: ‘Just Intonation Explained’ ( accessed 21/07/2007).
    Gann, Kyle: ‘The Outer Edge of Consonance: Snapshots from the Evolution of La Monte Young’s Tuning Installations’, Sound and Light: La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, ed. William Duckworth and Richard Fleming (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press / London and Toronto: Associated University Press, 1996), 152–190.
    Hamm, Charles: ‘John Cage’, John Kirkpatrick et al., The New Grove Twentieth-Century American Masters (London: Macmillan, 1988), 263–287.
    Hitchcok, H. Wiley: ‘Minimalism in Art and Music: Origins and Aesthetics’, Classic Essays on Twentieth Century Music: A Continuing Symposium, ed. Richard Kostelanetz and James Darby (New York : Schirmer, 1996), 308–319.
    ‘HStencil’: ‘Early Minimalism and Beyond: Tony Conrad in Music, Film and Video’, ( accessed 7/8/2007).
    Kahn, Douglas: Noise, Water, Meat; A History of Sound in the Arts (Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 1999).
    Kostelanetz, Richard: SoHo: The Rise and Fall of an Artists’ Colony (New York and London: Routledge, 2003).
    Kozinn, Allan: ‘MUSIC REVIEW: Show Tunes An Atonalist Wrote Before He Converted’, New York Times, 16/10/1999 (retrieved from, accessed 31/08/2007).
    Nyman, Michael, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond (London: Studio Vista, 1974, rev. edn Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999).
    Potter, Keith: Four Musical Minimalists (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). Rich, Alan: American Pioneers, Ives to Cage and Beyond (London: Phaidon, 1995).
    Rockwell, John and Zdravko Blazekovic: 'New York: 9. Avant-garde Music', The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie (2nd edition London: Macmillan, 2001), 832–834.
    Schwarz, K. Robert: Minimalists (London: Phaidon, 1996).
    Sell, Mike: Avant-Garde Performance and the Limits of Criticism—Approaching the Living Theatre, Happenings/Fluxus, and the Black Arts Movement (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2005).
    Snyder, Bob: Music and Memory: an introduction (Cambridge MA and London: MIT Press, 2000).
    Strickland, Edward: 'La Monte Young', The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie (2nd edition London: Macmillan, 2001), 673–675.
    Strickland, Edward: Minimalism: Origins (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1993 rev. edn 2000).
    Swayne, Steve: ‘Music for the Theatre, the Young Copland, and the Younger Sondheim’, American Music, 20/1 (Spring/2002), 80-101.
    Warburton, Dan: ‘Tony Conrad’, based on citations of liner notes to Conrad’s Early Minimalism Volume One, ( accessed 7/08/2007).
    Whittall, Arnold: Musical Composition in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
    Zukin, Sharon: ‘Art in the Arms of Power: Market Relations and Collective Patronage in the Capitalist State’, Theory and Society 11/4 (7/1982), 423-451.


    • New York
    • Downtown
    • experimental
    • music
    • patronage
    • minimalism
    • experimentalism
    • conceptualism
    • tuning
    • amplification
    • group dynamics
    • composition
    • improvisation


    Dive into the research topics of 'Product of Culture-Clash: social scene, patronage and group dynamics in the early New York Downtown scene and the Theatre of Eternal Music'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this