If John Cale is (rightfully) accepted as a pillar of New York's avant-garde music scene in the '60s, Tony Conrad is the mythical other pillar. His recordings are few and far between (the legendary Outside the Dream Syndicate with Germany's sonic ghosts, Faust; untold and unreleased recordings with Cale and LaMonte Young in the Dream Syndicate/Theater of Eternal Music), but worth seeking out. Conrad's long-range violin pieces are akin to listening to the tides change, as he scrapes stoically through microtonal changes that hover somewhere between actual rhythm and self-hypnosis. Concepts such as "repetition" and "drone" fall by the wayside when you hear Conrad at play. His live performance with Faust in 1995 (captured on Outside the Dream Syndicate: Alive, on Table of the Elements) is a full-contact immersion in the Conrad aesthetic. He conjures a clear, piercing tone from his violin that turns on itself so slowly you don't realize 40 minutes have passed until you suddenly become aware your eyes have dried out from staring and your slack-jawed mouth is full of dust. New Music Circle brings Tony Conrad to St. Louis -- proof at last of his existence -- at 7:30 p.m. this evening at White Flag Projects (4568 Manchester Avenue; www.newmusiccircle.org). Tickets are $7 to $15.
Sat., Dec. 3, 2011