La Monte Young    Marian Zazeela

Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord

in a setting of
Abstract #1


Quadrilateral Phase Angle Traversals
Dream Light

Charles Curtis, cello  

Les Subsistances, Lyon, France
+ 33 (0) 4 72 07 37 00 or on the web at

March 17, 2004, 8 pm

Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin, Germany
+ 49 30 254 89 0 or on the web at

March 22, 2004, 8 pm

The world premiere performances of the new collaborative work by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela for cello and light design will continue in Lyon and Berlin in March.  The evening-long work, entitled Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord in a setting of Abstract #1 from Quadrilateral Phase Angle Traversals with Dream Light, is composed for Charles Curtis, cello, pre-recorded cello drones and light design.  First performed in Paris and Dijon in November-December 2003, it will be performed by Curtis on March 17 at Les Subsistances, Lyon at 8 pm, a co-production of La Biennale Musiques en Scène and Grame, Centre nationale de creation musicale.  The final performance will be given by Curtis on March 22 at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin at 8 pm, a production of MaerzMusik 2004 and the Berliner Festspiele.

Zazeela’s magenta and blue light design includes the projection of a calligraphic drawing programmed to gradually metamorphose in quadrilateral symmetry over the duration of the musical work.  Much of Zazeela’s work in light and calligraphy has been grounded in concepts of structural symmetry.  Abstract #1 from Quadrilateral Phase Angle Traversals is based on her Word Portraits series of drawings and neon sculptures in which she has presented names, words or ideas drawn with their bilaterally symmetrical, retrograde and mirror-inverted images, so that the abstract form of the written word may be viewed independently from its meaning.  This allows the visual content of the work to be considered both apart from, and along with, the significance of the word.  In Abstract #1, Zazeela turned this concept inside-out and created a pattern that is derived from and evocative of letter forms, but which does not generate known words.  The projection becomes a mandala-like visual focus interweaving through time with the performance of the musical work.  Uli Schaegger programmed the movement of the video projection and will oversee Zazeela’s lighting installations in Lyon and Berlin as he has in other venues. 

Along with Young’s new works for his Just Alap Raga Ensemble, Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord represents his most recent composition.  Composed in Just Intonation, which Young defines as “that system of tuning in which every frequency is related to every other frequency as the numerator or denominator of some whole number fraction,” Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord is set in the Dorian mode.  From the early ‘60s, the Dorian mode has been one of Young’s tonal resources, providing the basis for Young’s Dorian Blues in G, which eventually became the singular work performed by his Forever Bad Blues Band, and for The Romantic Chord, one of the major sections of his magnum opus, The Well-Tuned Piano. 

While the traditional tunings of the Dorian scale in just intonation are factorable by the primes 5, 3 and 2, Young’s tunings are unique in that the tuning for Young’s Dorian Blues in G is factorable by the primes 7, 5, 3 and 2, and the tuning for The Romantic Chord is factorable by 7, 3 and 2.  As the title suggests, Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord is based on the tuning of The Romantic Chord from The Well-Tuned Piano.  Also in G, the Dorian mode of The Romantic Chord is based on the ascending Pythagorean series, C, G, D, A, E, with B-flat (the 3rd degree) and F (the 7th degree) derived septimally.  The C, G, D and A are all open strings on the cello, the Pythagorean E exists as a natural harmonic on both the D and A strings, and the B-flat and F exist as natural harmonics on the C and G strings respectively.  This congruence of pitches and strings delineates an inextricably inherent relationship between the tuning of the mode and the instrument. 

The new work was composed specifically for Charles Curtis, who has studied the performance technique with Young in the guru-disciple method of oral transmission over a period of years.  The work is not intended to be played by other cellists unless they study it with Young in the same way.  Curtis is perhaps the foremost performer of Young’s music in the world today.  He began to work with Young in 1987 when he performed in the Trio for Strings at the MELA 30-Year Retrospective Festival in New York.  Acknowledged internationally as a performer of new and experimental music, Curtis became director of Young’s Theatre of Eternal Music String Ensemble.  He has participated in more performances and premieres of Young's works than any other interpreter, including major performances at the Barbican Centre in London, the Darmstadt Festival, the Dia Art Foundation, New York, the Inventionen Festival, Berlin, the Cathedral of Dreams Festival, Krems, Austria, the Beyond the Pink Festival, Los Angeles, the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival, leading the Ensemble Modern strings for the Hessischer Rundfunk in Frankfurt, and with the Belgian ensemble Ictus in the Brugge 2002 Festival.  Curtis is one of the few instrumentalists to have perfected Young's highly complex just intonation tunings, and is one of only a handful of musicians to have appeared in duo formations with Young, performing works by early minimalists Richard Maxfield and Terry Jennings.  In 1989, Curtis began learning the Kirana style of Indian classical music from Young through their performances together of the Terry Jennings Piece for Cello and Saxophone.  Curtis became a member of Young’s Just Alap Raga Ensemble in summer 2003 and performed with the group at the Ustad Hafizullah Khan Memorial concert and the Pandit Pran Nath 85th Birthday Tribute concert in the Church Street Dream House. 

Marian Zazeela is one of the first contemporary artists to use light as a medium of expression.  As artistic director of The Theatre of Eternal Music, she has created the works that form the visual components of Dream House, a sound and light work in which she has collaborated with La Monte Young since the early ‘60s. In 1966, Young and Zazeela pioneered the concept of the continuous sound and light environment, and have since presented large-scale sound and light productions in museums and galleries worldwide for continuous periods from one week to one hundred days, including installations in the Metropolitan Museum, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; documenta 5, Kassel; Kunstverein, Cologne.  Under a long-term commission from the Dia Art Foundation (1979-85), Zazeela and Young collaborated in a six-year continuous Dream House presentation set in a six-story building on Harrison Street in New York City, featuring multiple interrelated sound and light environments, exhibitions, performances, research and listening facilities, and archives.  MELA Foundation's Dream House: Seven+Eight Years of Sound and Light, now in its eleventh year, is Young and Zazeela's longest continuous installation to date. 

The French Cultural Ministry National Foundation of Contemporary Art (FNAC) purchased Young and Zazeela's 1990 Donguy Gallery Paris exhibition for their permanent collection.  It was exhibited at the Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art during Musiques en Scène, 1999.  For La Beauté international exhibition in Avignon celebrating the Year 2000, Young and Zazeela created a four-month Dream House in St. Joseph Chapel.  The installation featured the world premiere of the continuous DVD projection of the 1987 six-hour 24-minute performance of their collaborative masterwork, The Well-Tuned Piano in The Magenta Lights, in a site-specific light environment by Zazeela. 

Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord in a setting of Abstract #1 from Quadrilateral Phase Angle Traversals with Dream Light was created under a commission from a consortium of four European organizations:  CCMIX, Paris; Nouvelles Scenes/Le Consortium, Dijon; Musiques en Scene/Le Grame, Lyon; and MaerzMusik/Berliner Festspiele, Berlin.  The commission was initiated by the CCMIX and its director, Gerard Pape. 

Utilizing pre-recorded cello samples played by Charles Curtis, the CCMIX realized a "live" computer part to facilitate real time manipulation of the cello drones.  This program was written by Stefan Tiedje, musical assistant of the CCMIX, under the direction of La Monte Young and Charles Curtis, who was in residency at the CCMIX Paris in November for the realization of the program.  The CCMIX is responsible for the sound production of the work for all of the world premiere performances in Europe.

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