Italian electronic composer Walter Cianciusi (q.v.) has made available an engine he’s designed for playing La Monte Young’s sine-tone installations – 23 of them so far, ranging from his early Composition 1960 No. 7 to The Prime Time Twins… from the current MELA Foundation Dream House. Download Cianciusi’s Dream House package here, and it installs Max/MSP on your computer if you didn’t already have it. Then you select an installation you want to hear, type in an appropriate base frequency and hit return so you can hear it, and press “Start.” (For the late, complex installations, the base frequency should be 7.5 cps; for the others, something more in the 100-250 range, depending.) Of course, to get anything resembling the real installations, you’d then have to run this through a big sound system with superb frequency response. If you have that available, though, this offers the chance, I guess, to live with these intervals experimentally as La Monte has long done, and maybe – with pristine enough sonic conditions – to experience these fascinating mathematico-minimalist works without traveling to New York City.
My office speakers aren’t nearly sophisticated enough to render the more complex installations with any realism, but I’m getting a kick out of the simpler ones. How can you tell whether you’re getting it? The volume level should be basically steady, without a pronounced regular crescendo/decrescendo beat, and you should be able to refocus your ears on different pitches by moving your head slightly. Kids, try this at home!