Historical context: Drone music

Early examples of Drone can be found in pedal organs in many of the medieval churches and cathedrals, which used specific harmonic pitches to  accompany sustained tone signing (also known as drone singing- e.g Gregorian chants). The notion of Drone can be found in many world music traditions  such as in India and Tibet, and in the natural world  through the sounds  generated by the rivers,  sea and wind.  This drone effect occurs, when you listen for a time to the resonance produced in the soundscape until the vibration falls away. 

Drone music’s sonic signature  can be best described as … a  gateway to  transcendental experimental music with a minimum of means which is heavily influenced by   Eastern influences. Kyle Gann (composer), commenting on La Monte Young’s work in an interview with BBC   states … “once your left brain gives up trying to make sense of it then the right brain is given an opportunity to listen in its own time (Charles Hazlewood, Tones, Drones and Arpeggios, 2018a, at 17:35 – 17:53).   Therefore, a drone can be best described as:  the presence of a constant sound where pitch has no noticeable variation in  it’s intensity. 

Drone can also produce a meditative, transcendence, altered state of mind,  feeling in it’s listeners  ..  generates a feeling of in the moment. Drone historically was experienced with psychedelic preparations  which  previous to the 1960s,  had been used for many thousands of years in shamanic religions to enter/ gain a state of altered consciousness to gain visionary like experiences. La Monte Young commenting on the use of drugs says, “… we got high for every concert: the whole group” as “ It allows you to go within yourself and focus on certain frequency relationships and memory relationships in a very, very interesting way”.  He  also suggests   he never performs the Well Tuned Piano without being high on Cannabis (Potter, 2002, p.67)


‘Tones Drones and Arpeggios’ (2018a)  Tones Drones and Arpeggios Episode 1. BBC4 Television, 02 March. [Online]. Available at:  https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6hwgzw [Accessed: 06 December 2019].

Potter , K. (2002) Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass.  Cambridge University Press  p.67. 

[Online]. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=sc61Gy3r8HAC&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=we+got+high+for+every+concert:+the+whole+group”++la+monte+young&source=bl&ots=byVcafTRFP&sig=ACfU3U0jsEqJqWEpK8cN_g2cbPT8wp-6gg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwicv4ObwrfmAhXPPsAKHaaBCbwQ6AEwAXoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=we%20got%20high%20for%20every%20concert%3A%20the%20whole%20group”%20%20la%20monte%20young&f=false[Accessed: 10 December 2019].

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