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Book review: 'Draw A Straight Line' is an intriguing read

By Shelby Scoffield

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Jan. 7 2012 4:00 p.m. MST

DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE AND FOLLOW IT: The Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young,” by Jeremy Grimshaw, Oxford University Press, $24.95, 264 pages (nf)

“Draw a Straight Line and Follow It: The Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young” by Jeremy Grimshaw is an intriguing read for those who are knowledgeable about music and its history.

A relatively unknown composer, La Monte Young is recognized as the patriarch of the minimalist movement. Straying from conventional music techniques, Young created music that was free of commercial concerns.

Having great influence on music icons, Young often worked in seclusion, and the result of his work was great musical pieces that were complex and sophisticated.

Because of the book's emphasis on musical principles and terminology, it will not appeal to those who are uninterested in the music scene.

The author’s dedication to researching Young is duly noted. Grimshaw must be applauded for giving Young the attention he deserves. However, the book seems laden down with unnecessary facts, which get in the way of the reader really getting to know Young.

The chapter dedicated to explaining Young’s Mormon religion is perhaps the most interesting part in the book. Those who practice the Mormon faith will be intrigued by the fact that such an eccentric man belonged to such a conservative religion.

The book features many photos of Young, which give life to the words on the page. The reader will be satisfied with the opportunity to give a face to the name La Monte Young.

Grimshaw is an assistant professor in the School of Music at Brigham Young University, and has written several pieces on contemporary American music.

All in all, “Draw a Straight Line” is a fitting tribute to an icon in the music world. It is an interesting read that will be devoured by those fans of all types of music.

Shelby Scoffield is a graduate of Brigham Young University and a graduate student at California State University, Stanislaus.

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