Drone and the Dream House

Dream House 78′ 17″  (1974) is one of the very few recordings on vinyl released by minimalist composer La Monte Young. Side 2, Drift Study is in two parts.  The first, is an  section of “The Tortoise, His Dreams and Journeys”, which comprises of three  generated sine waves, two voices, trumpet and trombone. The second part, is only performed by the three sine oscillators, the oscillators were a custom design and make   by sound engineer Robert Alder, and are reported to be able to generate specific frequencies and voltages  of great stability in sound generation. 

The Dream House Installation, is a project created as a static sound environment  with a  complex array of sonic frequencies.  The Drone like sound  emanating through the Dream House Installation is performed  by  Sine Wave Generators, which are set to generate varying volume, time and space as you walk through the installation. By moving through the Dream House, listeners hear the sound frequencies as moments in time,  as they “… literally “pass through” them or the spaces in which their constituent frequencies simultaneously and continually sound.” (Grimshaw, no date,  p.38). 

On visiting the Dream House Centrepompidou-metz.fr (2018), inform us that, when“ …visitors step into such a space, they are bathed in light and music, literally immersed in colour and sound, and invited to experience all the subtlety of their nuances”. In addition as you step inside the Dream House Licht (2013) describes it as, “ you’re enveloped by a voluminous, dizzying chord emanating from four speakers – it fills the room with buzzing overtones that seem to appear and disappear with even the slightest movement of your head.”

The music for the Dream House started in the early 60s  at Yoko Ono’s apartment where Young put on the First  concert, where they had, “… tuned their instruments to the underlying drone of the city”, and replicated the  “… 60Hz hum of the city’s electrical system”, which happens to relate to  the note B1.

La Monte recalls in an interview with Alan Licht (2013)  for Red Bull Music Academy that “… it came to me like a vision in the ‘50s  that sustained tones were really necessary to allow music to evolve to a higher level”, but, “ … nobody  knows where the drones really came from, but we know that they are more prevalent in Indian classical music than anywhere else. Furthermore,  La Monte continues “ …once I had sine waves available to me  and frequency counters in my ear and oscilloscopes, I was able to put whole number ratios on an oscilloscope with lissajous patterns”, (lissajous pattern is a two or three  dimensional pattern that can move, at frequencies that are  not  stable. When frequencies are stable the pattern will appear fixed / still). Young finds it interesting that, “ … both sound and light are in the electromagnetic frequency range but sound is measured by the body completely differently than light (ibid).


Centrepompidou-metz.fr (2018)  Exhibitions  La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, Dream House, 1990. From 16th of June to 10th of September 2018 [Online]. Available at: https://www.centrepompidou-metz.fr/en/la-monte-young-marian-zazeela-dream-house-1990 [Accessed: 06 December2019].

Grimshaw, J.  (n.d.) The Tabula (not so) Rasa: La Monte Young’s Serial Works and the Beginnings of Minimalism, 1956-58 . p. 25-61 [Online]. Available at: http://labos.ulg.ac.be/cipa/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/07/grimshaw.pdf  [Accessed: 06 December 21019].

Licht, A. (2013)The Hum of the City: La Monte Young and the Birth of NYC Drone[Online]. Https://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2013/05/the-hum-of-the-city-la-monte-young [Accessed: 06 December 2019].

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