Made to music : interactions of music and art, 1955-1969
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This dissertation examines the methods by which postwar American and European visual artists engaged with aspects of music in their work. Focusing on four case studies spanning from 1955 to 1969, I look to artistic interest in composition, musicianship, music theory, and sensory experience. These artists are tied culturally through their communities, performances, and exhibition histories; I further show how their mutual interests in Eastern mysticism and poetry forge an even more profound connection among them, and this dissertation offers an alternate cultural history for understanding modes of postwar abstraction in the United States. Chapter one explores the early conceptual art of American Minimalist composer and Fluxus performance artist La Monte Young. Young’s two series of typeset event scores from 1960-1961 opened up the arena of musical performance to non-musicians and visual artists. This chapter positions Young as an interlocutor between the worlds of avant-garde music and art in exploring a cultural history of the event scores, their adaptations, and Young’s role in the discourse on intermedia. Chapter two looks at the musical systems and styles that served as stimuli for two abstractionists, Larry Poons and Leo Valledor. Whereas Poons used a quasi-musical and mathematical system in composing his dot paintings, Valledor improvised upon the qualities of the jazz music he most admired through color experimentation. Chapter three provides an analysis of the eight volumes of the German music periodical Die Reihe, a close look at the composition techniques of Die Reihe’s co-editor Karlheinz Stockhausen, and the response to these ideas within the early serial sculpture of Sol LeWitt. Die Reihe, a journal of postwar serial music, was an important source for American artists in the 1960s, but has been little studied. This chapter offers an alternative reading of LeWitt’s projects in terms of new music theories. The last chapter considers the sound sculpture of Greek kinetic artist Vassilakis Takis. In his efforts to capture the “music of the spheres,” Takis’s sound-producing sculpture combined his interests in Zen Buddhism, physics, magnetics, and sound waves through the use of various metals and magnets.