“I think that this kind of sense of time has to do with getting away from the earthly sense of direction which goes from birth to death, in other words, like developmental form, and has to do with static form and moving up into, by up I mean like vertically, as in Vertical Hearing, moving, then, up through the sound of a chord or the sound of a tamboura or the sound of an interval that’s sustained, using this to create a drone state of mind as I described. By using this to create a drone state of mind, it provides a means toward achieving a state of meditation or an altered state of consciousness that can allow you to be more directly in touch with universal structure and a higher sense of order. And that once one achieves this kind of state of consciousness, in order to maintain it, one is not trying to get back down to the earthly level and get back involved with directional, climactic form, developmental form, one wants to stay in this more static state. The drone constants are very supportive and allow you to use them as positioning points of reference, to remain aloft, so to speak, in this special state of consciousness and awareness.”
– La Monte Young
That quote and photo come from here.
La Monte Young is a contemporary musician/composer/artist who performs his own music, and is one of modern music’s most influential composers (he influenced popular artists like Velvet Underground, Oko Ono, U2, David Bowie, and a lot of others) and while the quote just above wasn’t made regarding “The Well Tuned Piano” it gives some insight into the ideas that drive is artwork/music. La Monte was born in Bern, Idaho, and raised in a Mormon family. His music has a lot to do with mysticism, cosmology and meditation. Normally, pianos are tuned to an equal temperament, but “The Well Tuned Piano” uses a piano that is tuned to a non-standard temperament. His tuning is in such a way that the overtones (or partials) of the notes create varying ranges of dissonance and harmonics, and it has a lot of complicated math behind it. This type of piano playing falls under the category of “prepared piano” music, and a few more posts of prepared piano pieces are in the works. If you would like to know more about La Monte, or the theory behind his music, read this book. The entire piece is some 6 hours long, and it isn’t available for easy purchase–last I checked Amazon has CD box sets selling for approx. $1,000. BYU School of Music Library just purchased one, and is available to check out. Please do.
Also, if you’d like more background on La Monte, have another listen: an interview with Jeremy Grimshaw, an ethnomusicologist who wrote “Draw a Straight Line and Follow it.”