Tony Conrad: Invented Acoustical Tools-Instruments 1966-2012
Throughout his career, the artist, filmmaker and musician Conrad designed instruments that made it impossible to adhere to traditional Western harmonic principles. The artist himself takes us on a guided tour through an exhibition that brings together all of his low-budget, DIY, deceptively simple noise contraptions.
In 2012, Tony Conrad presented an overview of his self-invented instruments for a solo exhibition at Galerie Buchholz in Cologne. As he guides us through the show he reminisces how, half a century earlier, he began playing improvised music with La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and John Cale in a group whose purpose was to dismantle the cultural function of the Western serious music composer.
In 1960, Conrad became inspired by a lecture on South Indian music that explained how the elaborate vocal tradition of this music is tied in with the vina, a stringed instrument with very deep frets. After that he started to design his own string instruments, using the most modest and often quite a-typical means. When in 1966 he experienced a Buchla 100 audio synthesizer, Conrad subsequently decided to construct musical “pieces” by “composing” machines himself. The soundtrack for his film The Flicker was thus performed on a customised single-purpose self-built audio synthesizer.