The Moment of Enlightenment Is a Sound – Tony Conrad

Tony Conrad, Long String Drone, 1972, wood, bass strings, electric pickup, tuning keys, tape, rubber band, metal hardware…

“In a video tour of his 2012 exhibition at Galerie Buchholz in Cologne, Germany, Tony Conrad bounces excitedly from one three-dimensional element to the next. Invented Acoustical Tools included dozens of Conrad’s ‘inventions,’ ranging in date from the late 1960s through the present. The first object discussed and demonstrated on the video tour is also one of the earliest: a 1968 invention called the Limp String. Conrad holds the wooden board—a long, rectangular shape with an angled section removed from a single top corner—in his lap. Electrified, the Limp String begins to sing as Conrad pulls on a length of wire. A metal pipe borrowed from a vacuum cleaner extends from the bottom edge, serving as a stand for the object, while guitar-tuning keys jut from the angled corner. Conrad’s invention is a musical instrument, meant to replicate the sounds of an Indian veena, with its wavering tonalities and taffy-pulled sounds. … Long String Drone or, as Conrad coyly abbreviates it, LSD, sits perched on a pair of keyboard stands (not, it seems, original to the era). LSD resembles guitarist and songwriter Les Paul’s first electric guitar, ‘the log’—referred to as such because of its simple, rectilinear shape—which was made around 1940. Like Paul’s innovation, LSD is a long strip of wood, outfitted with an electrical element (the one musician benefiting from the precedence of the other, using a commercially available guitar pickup), tuning keys, and strings. … An active participant in New York’s avant-garde milieu of the 1960s, Conrad’s quest for a ‘new musical culture’ would lead him into collaborations and conversations with a host of artists and musicians. Among them were La Monte Young, Charlemagne Palestine, Angus MacLise, Henry Flynt, Jack Smith, Lou Reed, and Walter de Maria—though the circle was continuously expanding and contracting. Working together, usually outside of any formalized arrangement, this group circulated in a creatively charged New York, experimenting with electronically produced sounds; working through Cagean ideals of chance and indeterminancy; adjusting their instruments to alternative tuning systems; composing scores using words alone or eschewing composition altogether; incorporating psychedelics into their visual and musical practices; and experimenting with various methodologies, traditions, and media. …”
Walker Art Center
W – Tony Conrad
NY Times: Tony Conrad, Experimental Filmmaker and Musician, Dies at 76
YouTube: COMPLETELY IN THE PRESENT – Trailer #1, Keeping An Artwork Alive | Tate

Installation view of the exhibition Tony Conrad: Invented Acoustical Tools, Instruments 1966–2012 at Galerie Buchholz, Berlin, 2012.

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