BROOKLYN RAGA MASSIVE — Terry Riley in C (review)

BROOKLYN RAGA MASSIVE — Terry Riley in C album cover Live album · 2017 · World Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Terry Riley’s “In C” was a groundbreaking work within the confines of Western concert hall music. Its use of small melodic fragments that the members of the orchestra could choose to play at will helped introduce improvisation to the Western concert hall world, while its pulsing rhythms and homogenous tonal sound spearheaded a movement that became known as ‘minimalism’, something that was quite different from the 12-tone serialism and atonality that preceded “In C“. Since the late 60s, when “In C’ made its first appearance, it has been re-interpreted in many guises, including versions for ensembles who created African and Chinese versions of this malleable composition, which leads us to this latest version by Brooklyn Raga Massive . Brooklyn Raga Massive is an open-minded collective of performers who are well versed in the art of Indian classical music, but they are also willing to experiment with other musicians and styles of music too. This new version of “In C” is quite different from the original in may ways, and whether or not that is good or bad will probably vary from person to person.

The original “In C” had no one keeping time, there was an implied pulse, but the lack of strict time gave the piece a hallucinogenic ebb and flow that was one of it’s main appealing features. Featuring a different approach, this new version by the Raga Massive has a steady pulse supplied by the tabla, which gives the piece a groove more in common with modern ambient electronica. This trance element works well when the piece first opens, but after a while you may find yourself missing the more vague and slippery nature of the original. Terry Riley himself listened to this Raga version in rehearsal and was pleased with what he was hearing, but maybe he too was concerned about possible tedium in this new version because he suggested that the ensemble should add solos to the mix. This turned out to be a brilliant idea as the solos on sitar, violin, flute, vocals and other instruments add much more interest and excitement to the piece.

So once again “In C’ is given another face lift, as will probably happen again and again for many decades to come. Try out the original and this new version and see if you prefer the more dreamlike, yet insistent original, or this more Indian fusion meets techno-trance with driving solos modern version.
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