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Draw a Straight Line and Follow It: The Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young Hardcover – January 9, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"An intimate and revealing portrait of one of the most enigmatic musicians who ever lived, and a pivotal historical figure to boot." --Kyle Gann, author of No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33"


"La Monte Young has spent a lifetime treating the exploration of musical intonation as a search for spiritual truth. One of the powerful themes of this book is to trace how much Young's independent spiritual thinking springs from his Mormon roots--that one of American music's most rugged pioneers found inspiration in America's only rugged pioneer religion is a revelation, and it makes a lot of sense. I learned about it from this very enjoyable book." --David Lang, composer and winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Music


"Sure to become the indispensable work on composer La Monte Young, Jeremy Grimshaw's Draw a Straight Line and Follow It provides a uniquely balanced and engaged look at perhaps the most reclusive, enigmatic, and controversial figure of twentieth-century experimental music...Grimshaw's survey of Young's life work benefits greatly from the author's unprecedented access to the composer and his archives. The book moves seamlessly between rich biographic and ethnographic detail, sophisticated exposition of complex musical techniques, and searching interrogation of metaphysical influences and implications. From the Mormonism of Young's rural Idaho childhood through encounters with jazz, serialism, Darmstadt, Cage, Warhol, Pythagoras, Pandit Pran Nath, and beyond, Grimshaw argues that Young has consistently followed a straight line pointing toward the immanent physical presence of the Absolute in sound. What a long strange trip it's been!" --Robert Fink, UCLA


"Vigorously stimulating...It also rekindled a love for art that is challenging, a bit dangerous, and potent with change." --Mormon Artists Group Newsletter


"An intriguing read." --Deseret News


"Remarkable and indispensable...Draw a Straight Line does what only the most rewarding books about music do: it makes you want to immediately drop whatever else you're doing to go and listen to the music." --Frank. J. Oteri, NewMusicBox.org


"The biographical portions of this work flesh out one of the most doggedly mysterious figures of the experimental music world, while the analytical insights provide a compelling way in which to understand why and how Young created his extraordinary output... [It] should become an essential text for anyone interested in American experimental music." --Journal of the American Musicological Society


"Offers an intriguing model for a kind of orthogonal Mormon studies..." --Mormon Studies Review


About the Author


Jeremy Grimshaw is an assistant professor in the School of Music at Brigham Young University and the founding director of BYU's Balinese ensemble, Gamelan Bintang Wahyu. His writing on contemporary American music has appeared in various scholarly publications, including The Musical Quarterly and American Music. He also authored a work of creative non-fiction, The Island of Bali Is Littered With Prayers.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199740208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199740208
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.2 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,103,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeremy Grimshaw is the author of two books, The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers (Mormon Artists Group, 2010) and Draw a Straight Line and Follow It: The Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young (Oxford University Press, 2011), as well as numerous articles in various scholarly journals and general-audience media. He received his PhD in musicology, along with a certificate in world music, from the Eastman School of Music. He performs, researches, and teaches about various kinds of music, with emphases in American experimental music and Balinese gamelan. He directs Gamelan Bintang Wahyu, BYU's Balinese percussion orchestra, and coordinates world music activities.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"When I die, people will say, 'He was the most important composer since the beginning of music.'" -- La Monte Young (from a 2015 interview with Rob Tannenbaum)

La Monte Young does not mince words. Nor does he tolerate narratives about himself that deviate from the ones he wants people to believe. Which is why, in January 2012, Young launched a website blasting this biography by Jeremy Grimshaw in an attempt to undermine the book's credibility. Despite Young's attempt to dissuade readers, however, most reviews have been overwhelmingly favorable, including those in Kirkus Reviews (December 2011), The Musical Times (Winter 2012), Tempo (Volume 66, Issue 262, 2012), Classical Music magazine (April 2012), and the Journal of the American Musicological Society (Spring 2013).

Young's biggest complaint about the book has to do with what he feels is an exaggeration of the Mormon influences on him and his music (because Young was born and raised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and a lack of information about his discipleship under North Indian singer Pandit Pran Nath. Young says that after reading an early draft of the book, three of his closest colleagues (one of whom is Young's "disciple" who calls herself the "mind-born child" of Young and his partner Marian Zazeela) independently came to the conclusion that the Mormon influences had been overstated. In his denouncement of the book, Young retroactively asserted that Mormonism was "already far gone" from his life by the time he was in high school.

However, there is ample evidence to support Grimshaw's thesis that being born and raised a Mormon had an especially formative and lasting influence on La Monte Young's worldview and musical aesthetic.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lina on April 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Young's music is difficult to obtain because of the marketing strategy he has followed for much of his career. It is possible to find a few tracks of his music by searching on the amazon website. Also available is the Arditti String Quartet CD with his Five Small Pieces for String Quartet...

What this book does is place the music in context and place Young on a pedestal that he may or may not deserve. My one objection to Grimshaw's study is that it makes only a limited attempt to broaden the audience for Young's work. Mixing his musical analysis with the biographical details is an organizational approach that does little to introduce Young's work to a wider base of fans.

Some of the other customer reviews already posted are hilarious. However, this book will serve to cement Young's place in the history of minimalist composers and, as far as I can forsee, this book will only increase interest in Young's autobiography, if it ever emerges. The bottom line is that this book is worth reading if you are interested in modern music history. I highly recommend it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alfie on December 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Grimshaw's first-hand look at the life and work of Young is a revealing account of a man who goes to great lengths to remain at arm's length (sometimes further) from the general public. The section on 'The Dream House' gives as complete an account of the place I had only ever heard mentioned, and I was greatful for the light it shed. Other information on the influence Young received from Pandit Pran Nath as well as other Eastern influences shed new light on an artist who has successfully remained in the background for so much of his career. The book is a must read for anyone with an interest in current music avant garde.
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15 of 23 people found the following review helpful By RB Soul on December 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The cultishness that Young propagates--and to which Grimshaw does not genuflect--is delightfully revealed in Scratcher's two-star "review," which merely copy-and-pastes the rantings of the latest email newsletter of the MELA Foundation (the incorporated trade name of La Monte's cult). This book, however, based on Grimshaw's national-award-winning dissertation, is as authoritative an insider-outsider view as one is likely to get. That La Monte considers Grimshaw an apostate tends to validate its objectivity.

My high regard for the book parallels the blurbs on the jacket, which one should read carefully, if one wants actual peer-review of the author's scholarship. True historians don't ghostwrite their subjects' autobiographies. Artists usually don't understand that.

I do look forward to La Monte's actual autobiography, which will probably be as pricey and inaccessible as the tightly controlled "authorized" recordings of his music. But if one is interested in the admittedly arcane subject, where else would one go for a non-hagiographic narrative? Another MELA press release?

This book is, as they say, the real deal.
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Wold on December 18, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
In my fruitless search for some of La Monte Young's musical work, I ran across this book and was glad to find it. However, the first thing the book points out is that the music is not available.

This is incredibly frustrating. You get yourself interested to hear a whole new world of music, but it can't be heard. It doesn't exist. It is secret and restricted only to disciples.

I suppose Mr Young has all sorts of good reasons to hoard his music to himself. I suppose he is keeping himself pure from commercialism. But, he is also depriving the world from hearing something new he discovered about the universe. In the end that is quite selfish.

No, I can't afford to spend $1500 on a used set of "The Well tuned Piano". Nor do I like to frequent bit-torrent web sites with illegal copies to download.

I guess I will just give up and listen to other things.
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Draw a Straight Line and Follow It: The Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young
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