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The concert series I directed at Yoko Ono's studio on Chambers Street in 1960-61 was perhaps the first series to take place in a loft in New York City, thus representing one of the beginnings of alternative performance spaces. Because of the advantages of unlimited rehearsal and performance time, I was able to give each composer two entire evenings devoted to their own works. It is significant that I chose the work of Terry Jennings to open the series. Without doubt, I considered Terry the most talented musician I knew at that time. Terry, who was then only 20 years old, flew to New York to perform for the occasion.
Terry Jennings and Dennis Johnson were the first musicians to understand the unique tonal language, sustained tones, silences, and extended duration format of my works for Brass (1957), for Guitar (1958), and, in particular, the Trio for Strings (1958). Both Terry and Dennis utilized harmonic material based on my four-pitch "Dream Chords," which were the underlying harmonic basis for these works and later became the entire tonal content of my work, The Four Dreams of China (1962). Dennis' very beautiful work The Second Machine (1959) consisted of only the four pitches delineated in one of my chords, presented according to a unique system of permutations obtained from the scores which consisted of matboard constructions with dials to spin and notated strips to slide past windowed openings in the board. Terry, on the other hand, proved right away to be the romantic (the three of us used to talk about who was "the most romantic"): although his harmonies in the String Quartet grew out of the "dream chords," they were richly set with octave doublings and unusual voicings. It was a further innovation that the comparatively long durations were measured by stopwatch rather than metered notation, allowing the work to exist even more outside of time. The combination of translucent clarity and rare feeling portrayed in the String Quartet is truly inspirational.
For the second evening of his concerts at Yoko Ono's loft in December 1960, Terry scheduled several tape recordings of his music, including the String Quartet. The works of Terry Jennings are cared for and preserved in the MELA Foundation archives. Recordings of his works are planned for release on the Just Dreams label. In 1989, Marian Zazeela and I organized a Terry Jennings Memorial Concert with live performances and tape recordings of his music at the Dia Art Foundation in New York City under MELA Foundation auspices. On this program, Charles Curtis performed the New York live premiere of Terry's String Quartet with the Theatre of Eternal Music String Ensemble, under my direction. Tonight's performance by the CalArts New Century Players is the California live premiere.
© La Monte Young 2006