Tony Conrad Documentary Reviewed

English: Tony Conrad at the DeStijl/Freedom Fr...


Last Friday, I went to Baltimore’s Parkway Theatre to see Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present, Tyler Hubby’s new documentary on the late experimental multidisciplinary artist. I had only a passing awareness of Conrad’s work before he died last April—and I remember dozens of people here in Baltimore sharing footage and remembering his solo performance at High Zero in 2008. I’ve done some digging since, and what’s out there is fantastic, especially Four Violins (1964) and Slapping Pythagoras, an album he made in 1995 with Steve Albini and Jim O’Rourke. But there’s always been a significant gap in Conrad’s body of work because of preeminent prick La Monte Young. Someone needs to tie him up and raid his archives and free all that music that was meant for the world to hear—or at the very least, the people that created it. The man is holding onto, in John Cale’s words, “an entire body of work” by The Dream Syndicate (Young, Conrad, Cale, Angus Maclise, and Marian Zazeela), reels recorded from 1963 to 1965 that mark some of the earliest examples of American minimalism in music.