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The competent amateur

The desire to be an amateur permeated not only the music and movies the artist Tony Conrad worked with, but also the way he lived. Now the movie about him can be seen daily over an extended period in Oslo this fall.

Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present
Directed / photo: Tyler Hubby

What exactly is sound? And what is the connection between music and sound – when does sound turn into music, and when does chaos, noise, take over for the music? Such questions go right into the heart of Tony Conrad's practice. His soundmaking balances on the boundary of the musical, as many will perceive it, since rhythm and composition are reduced to a minimum: a few notes that are kept for a long time, then gradually slid into new phrases. The first time I heard him – it was talk of the piece Four Violins (1964) – I thought about the tuning of instruments, about the mildly cacophonous, often trying sound of instruments that must be fine-tuned before music is performed. For Conrad, there is no performance, or perhaps we should say that the mood is the performance: By staying at the mood, which is the music's performed prelude or beginning, he immerses himself in what music is and how the instruments sound in free dressage. His works balance on the border between an eternal beginning – because there is never a clear theme, motif or climax – and an infinite immersion. . .

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Kjetil Røed
Freelance writer.

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