La Monte Young, an originator of Western-classical minimalism, is typically heard pursuing his concept of "the drone state of mind," whether with his blues band or his version of a chamber ensemble. The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath (An Homage)—performed by Young and his partner, Zazeela—is primarily a drone album and one of the best ever, fit for dreamy contemplation. (Happily, it’s also currently in print, unlike his other complex works The Well-Tuned Piano 81 X 25 6:17:50 - 11:1859 PM NYC and The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer From the Four Dreams of China) Performed on a pair of tamburas, inside a 1982 version of the couple’s ongoing, mixed-media "Dream House" installation, this recording features the three pitches that Young and Zazeela bowed when accompanying Pandit Pran Nath, their guru and teacher, in the slow, Kirana style of Hindustani vocal music.
Thanks to the resonant quality of the tamburas—designed by Nath—and the perfectly matched tuning between the instruments played by Young and Zazeela, the overtones of the two instruments create a startling variety of effects within the unceasing drone. Wisps of melodic patterns and beats seem to emerge like apparitions from the restricted harmonic field, with the occasional, distant rumble of New York City motorcycles serving the only trace of the "real world" outside their Dream House. The album offers a purity of intent so refined, it has become the background track for Young and Zazeela’s continuing performances of raga-informed singing—and Tamburas is also a potent, powerful listen on its own. –Seth Colter Walls
Release Year: 1999
Listen: La Monte Young: "Just Alap Raga Ensemble"