Passage: A concert of note

(CBS News) It happened this week: a concert of note . . . ONE note, to be exact.

It was the New York premiere of the "Monotone-Silence Symphony."

Conceived by the late French artist Yves Klein (1928-1962), the symphony requires 70 musicians and singers to take turns hold a single sound for TWENTY minutes, followed by another twenty minutes of DEAD SILENCE.

The piece was performed just once in Klein's own lifetime, in Paris in 1960, accompanied by three nude models smearing themselves with Klein's signature blue paint.

New York art gallery owner Dominique Levy was the moving force behind this past week's performance:

"I thought that was the craziest and most unreasonable thing to ever do," Levy said. "How can you expect people to even bear 20 minutes of one note and 20 minutes of silence? And then I was lucky enough to experience it approximately, I think, ten years ago. And it was a life-changing experience."

Life-changing enough that she organized the concert to coincide with an exhibition of Klein's paintings and sculptures -- most of them blue.

"If you think about it, it's one single tone,' Levy said. "And he works in monochromatic color, one single color."

And so to Wednesday night's performance in a Manhattan church (minus the distraction of the three nude models in blue).

Together, the voices and instruments had a mesmerizing effect over time.


To listen to Yves Klein's "Monotone-Silence Symphony," click on the audio player.

Audio recording courtesy of Bill Siegmund, of Digital Island Studios, New York.


A New York Times blogger wrote afterword that he imagined he'd heard bagpipes at one point.

And then, after twenty minutes . . . the rest was silence:

It was, Levy said, a "magical balance."

"I think that's what he wanted to achieve, a moment where you would be sort of forced to be within yourself, without any distraction but your own dream and imagination and experience something that we don't often have the luxury to experience."


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