An interview with Mormon musicologist Jeremy Grimshaw

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt from Jeremy Grimshaw’s new book The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers, which is available from Mormon Artists Group. Younger denizens of the Bloggernacle might not recognize Jeremy’s name, but he started an excellent blog focused on Mormon culture called Orson’s Telescope way back in February, 2004. He brought sharp writing and humorous commentary to the mix and I became a major fan. Sadly, but understandably, he had to shut the blog down just a little over a year later to focus on his dissertation. The attempt at discipline must have worked because now he’s an Assistant Professor of Music at BYU.  In the following interview, we talk about his new book, his work on Mormon minimalist composer La Monte Young (which AMV has featured before), and a couple of other topics.

So last the Bloggernacle was really aware of Jeremy Grimshaw was when you shut down your excellent blog Orson’s Telescope to focus on your dissertation. Catch us up briefly — how did you get from there to where you are now?

I completed by Ph.D. in musicology with emphases in American experimental music and world music.  Out of grad school, I taught for two years at Denison University, a small, wonderful liberal arts college in central Ohio. I never really anticipated returning to Utah, at least not so quickly, but some curricular changes at BYU resulted in the creation of a new position. Next thing I knew, I was in Provo.

Some of our newer AMV readers may not be familiar with your work. Can you re-explain your studies and analysis of the work of La Monte Young?

Although his is not a household name, except perhaps in certain circles, La Monte Young is one of the most important American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. As an central figure in the New York scene of the 1960s, he curated a famous experimental concert series at Yoko Ono’s loft, collaborated with Andy Warhol, was a mentor to founding members of the Velvet Underground, and became the patriarch of the minimalist movement in music.  He became known for such works as his monumental 6-hour composition for alternately tuned piano, The Well-Tuned Piano, and the ongoing electronic installation known as the Dream House, which he created with his wife, the visual artist Marian Zazeela. Brian Eno, the electronic composer and producer for Talking Heads, U2, and David Bowie, calls him “the granddaddy of us all.”