La Monte Young
Trio for Strings (1958)
The Theatre of Eternal Music String Ensemble
- Charles Curtis, cello and direction
- Gascia Ouzounian, violin and viola
- Reynard Rott, cello
- Erik Ulman, violin and viola
Widely acknowledged as heralding the concept of Minimalism in music, La Monte Young's Trio for Strings is a landmark in twentieth-century music. Composed in 1958 in strict adherence to serial technique, it takes serial notions such as symmetrical row construction and the static tonal surface of late Webern to a logical, if extreme, conclusion. Trio for Strings is comprised only of long sustained tones in varying alignments alternating with silences; the uncompromising clarity of the work is unprecedented.
Over the course of a close, 18-year working relationship with Young as both student and performer, Charles Curtis has given more performances of Young's music than any other musician, including numerous manifestations of Trio for Strings. This long acquaintance has given rise to an analysis of Trio in the context of Young's later, rationally tuned just intonation works (particularly The Four Dreams of China). In recent years Curtis has developed a coherent just intonation tuning for Trio which moves it explicitly into the range of heightened phenomenological experience associated with Young's later works and Dream House installations.
To realize this tuned version of Trio, Curtis has assembled a quartet of outstanding string players with whom he has worked over a period of years; their interpretation can be considered definitive. Young writes of this ensemble, "The performers have developed an unparalleled skill in the execution of long, continuous bowing, precise intonation and the assured coordination that can only be achieved by many years of practice together in work of this nature... The Just Intonation Version as performed by this ensemble brings out aspects of the inner meaning of the work that have never before been made manifest."
"Despite its Serial underpinnings, nothing like Young's Trio for Strings had ever been heard in Western music, a piece constructed exclusively of sustained tones and silences. It creates a musical landscape that seems not so much exotic as otherworldly... Young is now widely recognized as the originator of the most influential classical musical style of the final third of the twentieth century."
--Edward Strickland, Minimalism:Origins, Indiana University Press, 1993.