The Mathematical Complexity of Dodecaphony Within La Monte Young’s Opus ‘The Well Tuned Piano’

The doodling, fast talking and extremely knowledgeable music theorist 12Tone takes on one of the most puzzling, but beautiful pieces of modern classical music, the La Monte Young Opus “The Well Tuned Piano“. This piece, aside from being almost five hours long, employs dodecaphony, a twelve-tone (yup) technique that has a certain mathematical complexity that forgoes traditional scales for a truly unique sound.

A great piece of music inspires many questions, like “What is this piece saying?”, or “Why does it make me feel the way it does?” One question you rarely see, though, is “What are you even playing?” But that’s exactly what La Monte Young forced listeners to ask with his magnum opus, The Well-Tuned Piano, which contains an experimental tuning system that he kept secret for 27 years. So what *was* he playing? Well… It’s complicated.

Here is Young performing “The Well Tuned Piano” in 1987.