I described becoming aware of S.M.S. in my post about the original release of Terry Riley’s Poppy Nogood’s All Night Flight, which was issued in the third volume of the publication. Just in case you didn’t read it –S.M.S. (Shit Must Stop) was an incredible arts journal that helped realize some of the most wonderful multi-media projects that emerged during the 1960’s. It was founded by artist, collector, and dealer William Copley in 1968 and issued in six volumes over the course of that year. S.M.S. was essentially a collection of art multiples gathered in a box. Participants (across the editions) included Meret Oppenheim, Yoko Ono, Bruce Nauman, H.C. Westermann, Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Enrico Baj, Hollis Frampton, Lee Lozano, Ray Johnson, Joseph Kosuth, Diane Wakoski, Mel Ramos, Bruce Conner, and Hannah Weiner, among others.
Pandit Pran Nath at Paula Cooper Gallery – Accompanied by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela
During the period I was cataloging Barbara Moore’s audio archive, I was also working full time at Paula Cooper Gallery. Paula is an icon of the art world. It’s hard to describe the depth of my respect and affection for the woman. She’s a tower of integrity and intellect, whose vision and passion has helped shape our conceptual landscape for more than half a century. Despite her fame, few people are aware of Paula’s deep devotion to avant-garde music. Beyond quietly running her own small label Dog W/A Bone, which has issued releases by Morton Feldman, Petr Kotik, Marcel Duchamp, The S.E.M. Ensemble, and Christian Marclay, she’s been lingering in the shadow’s since the late sixties, offering her helping hand to nearly every realization of advanced music which has risen through the years. She was among the first patrons of The Kitchen, sat on its board, and has hosted countless concerts at her gallery since its inception. By way of digression, her ex-husband Neil Cooper founded the iconic Punk and Reggae label ROIR, which over the years has produced incredible releases by The Bad Brains, Suicide, Ras Micheal, The Raincoats, Television, and Lee “Scratch” Perry, among dozens of others. It’s now run by her son Lucas, who also works at the gallery. It goes without saying that Paula and I had a lot to talk about. The hardest thing about leaving her gallery to begin my current drift, was reflecting on all the conversations we would never get to have.
When I returned to work the morning after discovering the two small boxes containing Riley’s Poppy Nogood, and La Monte Young’s Drift Study, I excitedly asked Paula if she was aware of them, and if she knew anything more about this amazing mystery Shit Must Stop. I shouldn’t have been surprised that she did (if ever there was a walking archive). After describing her affection for them, she casually mentioned that she had the full six editions somewhere downstairs, but hadn’t seen them in a while. It took about five minutes to have them in my hands. Before long I was working my way through one of the most incredible artifacts of the 1960’s avant-garde.
The first object I pulled from S.M.S # 1, was a black piece of paper with a familiar border tracing across its two visible sides. As unfolded it, I realized I was holding La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s mythical Two Propositions in Black. I’d heard mention of it over the years, and was roughly aware of its contents, but to my knowledge it’s never been published anywhere else, and remains impossible to read outside of its original release. It cryptically describes Young’s theory on the effect of duration, when trying to achieve perfect pitch. I had every intention of documenting it, but free moments at Paula Cooper were scarce. Sadly I moved on before I had the chance. It took a while to track down some images of it. They’re not great, but will have to do. For those who have trouble reading the text in the details, I’ve transcribed it at the very bottom. I hope you enjoy this window into another world.
Contents of S.M.S #1
La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela – Two Propositions in Black (1968)
Tuning is a function of time.
Since tuning an interval
establishes the relationship of
two frequencies in time, the
degree of precision is proportional
to the precision of the analysis,
i. e. to the duration of
tuning. It is necessary to
sustain the frequencies for
longer durations if higher
standards of precision are
to be achieved and studied
ca 26 VI 67
ca 9 VIII 67
N Y C
the more nearly two pitches are
perfectly in tune, the further
apart the beats will occur requiring
more time – longer durations
to play more perfectly in tune
ca 4:21 PM
before 4:24 20 PM
30 IV 67