Tony Conrad

Tony Conrad lived his life on the bleeding edge of film, music, and video art, becoming enormously influential even though he remained relatively unknown in the mainstream. Attending Harvard, Conrad became entranced with the world of avant-garde composition, and when he moved to New York City in the early 1960s, he got involved with the underground experimental music scene that was flourishing on the city's Lower East Side. Conrad played violin with minimalist pioneer LaMonte Young's ensemble, The Theater of Eternal Music (a.k.a. The Dream Syndicate), performing alongside John Cale, Terry Riley, and others. He also became involved in the avant-garde film world, scoring Jack Smith's underground milestone Flaming Creatures and eventually releasing his own highly experimental film, The Flicker, in 1966. Conrad also crossed over into the rock world; when Lou Reed was a songwriter for hire at Pickwick City Records in 1964, he cut a rock 'n' roll single called "The Ostrich" under the name The Primitives, for which a backup band including Conrad and Cale was recruited, foreshadowing Cale and Reed's subsequent partnership in the Velvet Underground. In 1973, Conrad released the album Outside the Dream Syndicate a collaboration with legendary krautrock band Faust. Conrad continued pushing the envelope in both his music and film work, and eventually added video art to his credits when he became a Professor of Media Arts, first at Antioch College in Ohio and then at the University of Buffalo. Conrad's work experienced something of a renaissance in the late '90s when he released his recreations of the Theater of Eternal Music's work, which Young had steadfastly refused to reissue. Shortly after Conrad died of prostate cancer in 2016, director Tyler Hubby premiered Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present, his documentary about Conrad's life and work.