Saturday, October 15, 2011

Terry Riley - In C (CBS - MS 7178)

There are such compositions in the 20th Century which created a butterfly effect that their legendary positions have totally surpassed their beauty or intellect. "In C" is one of those compositions and we can see the similar structural compositions still today, not only in contemporary classical music, but Electronic Music, Rock and even Jazz.

Terry Riley is more of a technician or a structuralist (I may have created the word) rather than a composer. In this case, he shares the same fate like his contemporary Karlheinz Stockhausen. Of course Riley has crucial compositions which we are listening still today, but his main strength lies elsewhere. This is also quite interesting since he started his musical career as a pianist and later a soprano saxophonist. He is quite a master in both as well.

The structures in "In C" are layered and this layerizing is clearly the teachings of La Monte Young. Moreover, Riley created a duality of performance within this structure. The performers each have 53 figures to play with a chance to improvise. Also collectivity is crucial since they need to listen their fellow performers in order to interact. No two performances can be the same and the music itself comes out like a living organism.

This continuity feeling is very well established among most minimalist composers. It is quite easy to see in the cases of Steve Reich (Ie Sextet/Six Marimbas) and Philip Glass (Ie Akhnaten or Koyaanisqatsi Ost). Thus it can be said that one of the reasons for this style to gain a strong foothold in today's compositions and other music genres is this similarity to life and nature. Obviously, Minimalist producers have been the primary choice of music for the natural documentary producers.

"In C" is musically enlightening. It is a feast for the ear as well as all perceptive senses. While listening, you don't feel it as an almost 50 year old composition, but rather like a music which has been evident in many things one may have listened. The notes or the structure are not the only thing that matters for this composition, it is also what they have caused in later stages.

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