The Well-tuned Piano

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20160103

A recording of The Well-Tuned Piano by La Monte Young, a piano solo lasting for five hours

The Well-Tuned Piano by La Monte Young is an epic piano solo lasting for five hours. It's a classic of American Minimalism, composed in 1964 (though Young considers it to be still a work in progress). Max Reinhardt introduces this recording, in which the composer performs on a specially-tuned piano.

La Monte Young is one of the first minimalist composers, along with Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Steve Reich. He is especially known for his development of drone music. He started out as a jazz musician, but then studied composition with Stockhausen in Germany, and also electronic and classical Indian music in the USA. He considers the Well-Tuned Piano to be his masterpiece.

"My personal experience with The Well-Tuned Piano was one of... heightened concentration...the flow of momentum marshaled the vibrations of air in the room, slowly making the ear aware of sounds that weren't actually being played....I thought I heard foghorns, the roar of machinery, wood blocks, a didgeridoo, and most powerfully, the low, low vibration of the 18-cycles-per-minute E-flat that the ear supplied as the "missing fundamental" of the piano's overtones."

- Kyle Gann, The Village Voice (1987),.