Avant-garde filmmaker and composer Tony Conrad has died aged 76.

The drone pioneer had prostate cancer and was recently hospitalised with pneumonia, the Buffalo News reports. Conrad had taught in the University at Buffalo’s media study department since 1976.

Born in Baltimore in 1940, Conrad was at the forefront of New York’s experimental music scene in the ‘60s, collaborating with La Monte Young and exploring drone and minimalism with Theatre of Eternal Music (aka the Dream Syndicate), an outfit which included John Cale among its members.

Conrad was in a band called the Primitives with Cale and Lou Reed, and was supposedly responsible for introducing them to the book with gave their next band its name, The Velvet Underground.

His experimental films were also hugely influential, particularly 1966’s The Flicker, which made audience members physically ill when it was first screened.

After a hiatus when he was focused on his teaching, he returned to performing in 1993, and released several more records, collaborating with some of those whose music influenced, including Rhys Chatham and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.

An event to mark Conrad’s retirement had been planned for May 2 at the University at Buffalo, which shared the press release for the event:

“Tony Conrad cannot be put into a box. Best known as an experimental musician and filmmaker, he is also a painter, writer, video and performance artist, and eminent mentor and teacher. In 1966, Conrad made Flicker, a seminal work in structural and phenomenological film. Other prominent works include Coming Attraction and Straight and Narrow (1970), Articulation of Boolean Algebra for Film Opticals (1975), Phonograph andCycles of 3’s and 7’s (1977), Hail the Fallen (1981), and In Line (1986). While his films often examine perceptual issues, he also explores narrative structures in his video works. In the 1970s and 80s, Conrad began investigating socio-cultural power structures, which led to the creation of Squeaky Wheel and various community focused projects (Studio of the Streets, Homework Helpline).” [via Pitchfork]



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