Witts has a remarkable chapter on Cale, which essentially suggests that everything Cale brought to the band, technically and philosophically, was taken directly from La Monte Young and his wife Marian Zazeela. Young and Zazeela were coterie-oriented avant-gardists who wanted to advance music and liberate minds through new instrumental means. It's not unusual to identify Cale with the avant-garde, nor with Young, his teacher, but it's pretty shocking to be told that Cale's Velvet-era avant-gardism was really nothing but Young's techniques. The drones were Young's, the ways of retuning, the attempts to maintain single notes for two hours at a time. Even the black and white costumes and sunglasses, with coloured slide-projections cast on the performers, seems to have been a Zazeela idea that Warhol stole. Witts gets down to specific references: 'In "European Son", Cale drags a chair across the studio in the manner of Young's Poem. In "I'm Waiting for the Man" he plays piano clusters in an amphetamine-frenzied version of [Young's] X for Henry Flynt.
― Mark Grief on
The Velvet Underground by Richard Witts
London Review of Books (Vol. 29, No. 6, 22 March 2007)
For the majority of compelling pieces here were the older ones, among them a few whose very appearance dramatized that vertiginous sense arising when objects from different eras come into incongruously close contact. (“Time does not pass,” Bourriaud writes of the effect, “it ‘percolates’”). In this department first honors must be awarded to La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House, 1993―. At its location in the Tribeca section of New York City, this roomful of infinitely repeating cycles of sound and light frequencies is a veritable wormhole in the urban fabric. (Outside it is 2006; inside it seems perpetually 1985, the year Young and Zazeela’s MELA Foundation opened its doors. It has since maintained an artist’s-loft sensibility once indigenous to the area.) Relocated to the cavernous industrial space of La Sucrière, however, the piece created other wrinkles in time, seeming at once placed at the cultural roots of European rave and trance culture—indeed, Lyon artistic director Thierry Raspail told me that Young obtained the very latest subwoofers for the occasion (the deep pulses raising the roof and making the floor feel ready to cave in)—and also utterly futuristic. Indifferent to Young’s deafening drones was the medieval architecture along the Saône river, visible through the installation’s tinted windows.
― Tim Griffin, ARTFORUM, Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, February 2006
Another important aspect which makes this DVD superior to the original CD, is that Marian Zazeela’s Magenta Lights installation can be viewed in all its subtly changing glory. Rather than being an accompaniment to the music, Zazeela’s work becomes an integral part of The Well-Tuned Piano, a solar powered light show that provides a sense of time passing as the shadows lengthen from early evening into night. Young continues to expand The Well-Tuned Piano, but this DVD acts as the definitive version of this remarkable musical and visual achievement.
― Edwin Pouncey, The Wire, May 2003
Marian Zazeela’s illuminated calligraphy, in spite of its minimalistic appearance, is a most intricate light work which, in its scope and originality, defines its own aesthetics. Her modalities of calligraphy are a site for a language of light which writes itself without the interference of a human will, without the interruptions of a human hand. Only the boundary conditions of this writing have been fixed by the artist, everything else is sheer magic—like the (unpredictable) digits falling out of the decimal places of π.
― Christer Hennix, Language and Light in
Marian Zazeela’s Art,
Sound and Light: La Monte Young Marian Zazeela, Bucknell Review Vol. XL, No. 1, 1996
Marian Zazeela's light sculptures have invariably, teasingly refused to surrender their entire secret to photographic reproduction, so much do they depend on the retinal impact of activated photons in real time and so much do they exploit, in ways analogous to Young's techniques, the creation of visual combination tones and an accumulation of after-images.
Zazeela has, as usual, lavished her artistry on the packaging of the Second Dream CD. Her trademark calligraphy, here accompanied by improvised glyphs that suggest an esoteric tradition, is loosely based on the Chinese writing she studied some years ago (the label was originally executed on rice paper). The cover photograph, shot by Zazeela, is a view through magenta mists toward the Himalayas: the youngest mountains on the planet, where monks disperse evil spirits with implacable blasts on trumpets of human bone and tantric choirs reverently evoke overtones...behind which lies China.
― Sandy McCroskey, 1/1, Vol 8, No 3, June 1994
Dream House goes on for seven more years...Stay at least long enough to stare at Zazeela's Imagic Light and Ruine Window, which will imprint your retina with blues and purples you haven't felt before.
― Kyle Gann, The Village Voice, May 10, 1994
Intense light [is] aimed through [colored] filters at quasicalligraphic aluminum shapes hung by ultrafine filaments. The effect is a unique and extraordinary transvaluation of perception: the mobiles seem to hover unanchored, while the shadows they cast in various hues attain an apparent solidity against the light- dissolved walls equal to their literally palpable but apparently disembodied sources. Like Young's music, to which it serves as an almost uncanny complement, Zazeela's work is predicated upon the extended duration necessary to experience the nuances which are its essence.
― Edward Strickland, Minimalism:Origins, Indiana University Press, 1993
A serious but unavoidable loss from the live experience of the music in Young's Dream House performance space is the Magenta Lights, the mobile sculptures of light and shadow by Marian Zazeela that create a hypnotic visual setting for the music. Color photographs in the brochure accompanying the recording hint at their magical effect.
― Douglas Leedy, American Music, Vol 11, No 4, Spring 1993
After an initial period of experimentation with conceptual art, [Young] and longtime collaborator Marian Zazeela assembled the Theatre of Eternal Music, a multi-media extravaganza that included, at any given time, musicians like Terry Riley, John Cale and Angus MacLise playing behind Zazeela's organic, hauntingly minimalist sculptures-and-light environments, which still play a big part in Young's work. Several years later, Andy Warhol would take this concept lock, stock and barrel, and present it as the "groundbreaking" Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
― David Sprague, YOUR FLESH #28, December, 1993
A longer stay in the Dream House is necessary to experience the full effect. The mind is calmed by the environment in a meditative way, and subtle sound and light effects that are veiled at first sight then come to the fore.
― Jost Muxfeldt, Die Tageszeitung, Berlin, February 29, 1992
The very first psychedelic light show was done by La Monte Young's group [Marian Zazeela], with this fabulously loud music, drone music of course. Cale was in his band...Then Andy Warhol and Lou Reed came along and lifted the whole idea of a psychedelic light show and the whole idea of quasi-drone music. And that became the Velvet Underground that we know now.
― Glenn Branca, Forced Exposure #16, 1990
Shining different-colored lights on simple vertical or curved objects, Zazeela works with the same subtleties in terms of light waves that Young does with tones, and both depend on sustained perception for their effect. The lights produce colored shadows that, if you stare at them awhile, burn with an intensity no pigment could produce. In the '60s, a lot of art aspired to individual perception, to allow each person to shape his or her own experience by moving through a work. Young and Zazeela nurtured that dream, and it's flowered into some of the strangest and most forward-looking art New York has to offer.
― Kyle Gann, The Village Voice, April 11, 1989
The sound was drawn from chords of The Well-Tuned Piano. The light was Zazeela's phenomenal composition, The Magenta Lights, depicted on the Gramavision box and booklet, both designed by the couple and works of art in themselves. Young will only perform The Well-Tuned Piano in this setting, which manages by precise manipulation of lighting tones and angles to abolish the distinction between solids and space, image and reflection, all in a hauntingly crepuscular ambience that unites audience and un-spotlit pianist.
― Edward Strickland, Fanfare, September/October 1987
Marian Zazeela's The Magenta Lights offers a particularly intriguing point of view, one located in the wondrous realm of spectral energy. She transforms material into pure and intense color sensations, and makes a perceptual encounter a spiritual experience. The Magenta Lights is an environmental piece in every sense of the word. What Zazeela has wondrously represented is the subtle relationship between precision and spirituality.
― Ronnie Cohen, ART FORUM, May 1981
There is a retreat to reverie as if one were staring up into the summer night sky. In this sense, The Magenta Lights is experienced as a meteorological or astronomical event, a changing color display above one's head, like an art equivalent of the Northern Lights. If sheer ability to induce meditation is used as a measure of worth, then the installation is certainly successful.
― Duane Stapp, ARTS Magazine, April 1981
Miss Zazeela's environment is as concerned with the relations of pure colors as Young's music is with pure sound...those at all susceptible to mystical experiences will feel the drones seep into their very bones, and the celestially shifting sound colors will light up their imaginations in a way that no other music can.
― John Rockwell, Musical America, August 1974
The ebb and flow of the delicate, vaguely Persian, calligraphic slide projections of Miss Zazeela and the overall aura of dark solemnity, is deliberately and compellingly hypnotic.
― John Rockwell, The New York Times, May 2, 1974
I pushed aside first one black curtain, then, in complete darkness, a second, and walked in. The only light came from the beams of three projectors which superimposed three of Marian's slide creations on the far wall. But the wall was no longer a flat boundary to the room. Each projector was in a different focus, each focus occasionally slowly moved forward and back. The effect was to abolish the wall as a flat boundary to the room and replace it with a sense of the room continued into a bright space of constantly changing depth, color, and atmosphere: as one of Marian's intricate calligraphic designs faded 'out of focus' it really receded further, perfectly focused, into that virtual space. The snowflake patterns within the soft colored gel-fields are really delicate ideograms of the sound experience: you begin to see through their growth and decay, and realize they are always 'in focus' in a much larger world than you were aware of--that patterned stasis is always imminent within flow. I realized that I had always listened to sound as just the first flat unfocused projection upon the plane of my tympanum, unaware of the whole sphere, whose intersection with that plane was the flat noise I heard.
― Ron Rosenbaum, The Village Voice, February 13, 1970
The light shows which accompany the music of The Theatre of Eternal Music are very different from the flashing strobe lights one sees in the commercial psychedelic world. Marian Zazeela is above all a craftsman, a workman, technician, an artist with a consummate sense of the delicate and structural. From early Miro-like paintings on large canvasses which she executed at Bennington College, her work has condensed and condensed until now she produces exquisite calligraphic drawings. I believe, though it may be superstitiousness, that every drawing of hers may be a kind of magic formula, slipping into tiny lines and beautiful forms. She designs tape boxes to house the Master tapes of the 'eternal music,' as well as lightboxes, skin jewelry, and of course the slides which are projected on to the walls and performers around the room during a performance of the music. These slowly change from variations of green and sunset colors to rooms full of intense patterns.
― Diane Wakoski, IKON Magazine, Vol 1, No 4, 1967