TERRY RILEY — In C (Members of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts in the State University of New York at Buffalo feat. conductor & saxophone: Terry Riley) (review)

TERRY RILEY — In C (Members of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts in the State University of New York at Buffalo feat. conductor & saxophone: Terry Riley) album cover Album · 1968 · Third Stream Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Although TERRY RILEY actually composed his famous IN C way back in 1964, it didn't find a release as a recording until four years later. RILEY is famous for his minimalist approach to Western classical music with a healthy helping of jazz and Indian classical music as influences. Apparently the 60s was a time when composers were obsessed with finding ways to break down the barriers and limitations of the status quo by throwing all the accepted norms out the window and freeing themselves of set chord changes, scales and anything else that was thought to be “normal” for composers to accept.

IN C is interesting in that when played live it has no set duration. It can last a few minutes to several hours and every performance is improvised and therefore completely different. This one album is but a particular snapshot serving as a mere example of what you might hear if you happen to witness a live rendition. The whole thing is quite technical to explain and all the terminology including the term heterophonic which refers to different rhythmic displacements can easily be found on the internet.

Basically the whole thing begins on a C major chord with different patterns that recur by adding and subtracting different instruments. I would say it's kinda like you were walking down a very long hallway with rooms on each side and in each room there is a different instrument playing a subtly different part off of the C major chord. As you continue to walk you would hear the instruments you've already passed fade away while the ones you approach getting more prominent. Of course while all this is occurring some instruments begin and stop randomly.

It is all strange and unpredictable as to which rhythms and timbres will occur yet totally predictable as to which notes will continue during the 45 minutes of length, at least on my CD. Of course RILEY would go on to redefine music in other ways but on this album he shows that you can be academic in your approach and still make something pleasurable to listen to. Of course, this is one of those occasional listens since it is so strange as to be almost alien. I can hear how artists like Philip Glass and others were influenced by some of RILEY's approach. It seems the Acid Mother's Temple has done a version of this as well as many others.
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