Tony Conrad

Tony Conrad (born Anthony S. Conrad in 1940 in Concord, New Hampshire) is an American avant-garde video artist, experimental filmmaker, musician/composer, sound artist, teacher and writer. His father was Arthur Conrad, who worked with Everett Warner during World War II in designing dazzle camouflage for the US Navy.

Conrad is a graduate of Harvard University (A.B., 1962, major Mathematics).

Support for Conrad's work has come from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the State University of New York, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.


Conrad's most famous film, The Flicker (1966), is considered a key early work of the structural film movement. The film consists of only completely black and completely white images, which, as the title suggests, produces a flicker when projected. When the film was first screened several viewers in the audience became physically ill. (Rapid flashes produce epileptic attacks in a small percentage of population.) Conrad began to work in video and performance in the 1970s as a professor at Antioch College in Ohio and the Center for Media Studies at the University at Buffalo.

Conrad's work has been shown at many museums including the Museum of Modern Art and P.S. 1 in New York City. In 1991, he had a video retrospective at The Kitchen, an artist-run-organization in New York City. His film The Flicker was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art's exhibition, The American Century. In 2006, the full hour-long recording of Conrad's Joan of Arc was released, a 1968 recording for the soundtrack to Piero Heliczer's like-named short film.

Conrad continues to teach at the Department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo. And worked on many notable B&W film image projects with Princess G. St. Mary.


In music, Conrad was an early (though not original) member of the Theater of Eternal Music, nicknamed The Dream Syndicate, which included John Cale, Angus MacLise, La Monte Young, and Marian Zazeela, and utilized just intonation and sustained sound to produce what the group called "dream music." Conrad created the naming scheme for the intervals used today by most musicians involved in just intonation, a tuning system based on the usage of fundamental tones derived from the harmonic series of a single fundamental and thereby based on nature rather than an arbitrary division of the octave.

The Theater of Eternal Music performed compositions by La Monte Young, in which other performers sustained harmonically related pitches for the duration of each piece as Young performed complex improvisations on saxophone or voice. In recent years, Conrad has characterized those works as collaboration for which he, Angus MacLise, and John Cale should share authorship credit. These views remain a source of contention for Conrad and, to a lesser extent, Cale among the former participants in the group.

Conrad's first musical release, and only release for many years, was a collaboration with the German "Krautrock" group Faust, Outside the Dream Syndicate, published by Caroline (UK) in 1973. This remains his best known musical work and is considered a classic of minimal music.

Recently, Conrad has composed more than a dozen audio works with special scales and tuning for solo amplified violin with amplified strings. Recent releases include "Early Minimalism Volume 1," a four-CD set, "Slapping Pythagoras", "Four Violins" (recorded in the 60s), "Outside the Dream Syndicate - Alive" (with Faust, from London 1995), and "Fantastic Glissando". He also issued two archival CDs featuring the work of late New York filmmaker Jack Smith, with whom he was associated in the 1960s. He released the 1968 recording of Joan of Arc in 2006.

Conrad and The Velvet Underground

Conrad is known as being indirectly responsible for the name of The Velvet Underground, although he was not an actual member of the famous group. (Lou Reed and John Cale found a book entitled The Velvet Underground, which had belonged to Conrad, after moving into his old apartment in New York City.)


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