The band experienced relative commercial success and critical acclaim throughout their existence, continuing partly into the new millennium, including signing to major label DGC in 1990 and headlining the 1995 Lollapalooza festival. Sonic Youth have been praised for having "redefined what rock guitar could do", using a wide variety of unorthodox guitar tunings and preparing guitars with objects like drum sticks and screwdrivers to alter the instruments' timbre. The band is considered to be a pivotal influence on the alternative rock and indie rock movements.
In 1999 their music reached a new audience interested in 20th-century classical music and experimental music with the release of SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century, a double album of covers of avant-garde recordings that featured works by avant-garde classical composers such as John Cage, Yoko Ono, Steve Reich, Pauline Oliveros, George Maciunas, Cornelius Cardew, Nicolas Slonimsky and Christian Wolff as played by Sonic Youth along with several collaborators from the modern avant-garde music scene, such as Christian Marclay, William Winant, Wharton Tiers, Takehisa Kosugi and others.
In 2011, Ranaldo announced that the band was "ending for a while" following the separation of Moore and Gordon.
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