A while back, Stephen Colbert made fun of John Zorn on the Colbert Report, and I’m pleased to report that tonight he referred, if not by name, to La Monte Young.  At the beginning of a segment on Art, he talked about feeding hay to a piano, which as you know clearly refers to Young’s 1960 piece “Piano Piece for David Tudor #1.”

The piece is one of several text instruction pieces from 1960 and its instructions read: “Bring a bale of hay and a bucket of water onto the stage for the piano to eat and drink. The performer may then feed the piano or leave it to eat by itself. If the former, the piece is over after the piano has been fed. If the latter, it is over after the piano eats or decides not to.”

Tom Johnson reviewed a September 1973 performance of the piece in The Village Voice, saying “I have always thought of the piece as conceptual art and never expected it to come off in an actual performance, but I discover that I was wrong. The way Jim Burton interprets the score, the piano really starts to look like a horse, and the audience is delighted with the absurdity of the situation. So much for any theories about La Monte Young as a conceptual artist.”

Two questions:  Does anybody know of any more recent or upcoming performances?  And which piano companies make the hungriest pianos?

6 thoughts on “Colbert and Young”
  1. Alarm Will Sound performed it at Dickinson College, just last year. We wanted to perform it at Carnegie, but La Monte wouldn’t let us without working with him for over a week on it and paying a huge fee.

  2. That’s a disappointing story about La Monte Young’s terms for performance…..it reminds me of a time a few years ago, when someone in my grad school program decided it would be a good idea to ask Stockhausen to come over for a colloquium. He agreed, but only on the condition that we would build a theater with $2,000,000 worth of sound equipment so as to properly perform his works, not just for this visit, but for all time to come. We thought about canceling our scheduled colloquia through the year 3374 and dedicating those colloquium funds to the endeavor, but at the last minute we decided that it wasn’t quite worth it.

  3. My concert series (ACME Observatory, in Berkeley, CA) scheduled ”Piano Piece for David Tudor #1” as part of a night of Fluxus performances several years ago. After our publicity mailing went out we got an email from La Monte dictating terms that were unworkable given our lack of budget, (he wanted us to fly him out to California to supervise the performance and pay a fee that was larger than our average weekly take) so we removed the piece from the program. Of course the piano was still hungry, so we ordered it a pizza.

  4. I can’t believe I missed this! I was half watching the Repor’ while unpacking in my new home, and it must have slipped by me. I will have to catch the replay this evening at 8:30.

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