Terry Riley: In C
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In 1964, Terry Riley kicked off a revolution with his landmark piece, "In C" -- inspiring such young composers as Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Now, Bang on a Can reinterprets this minimalist claassic with an explosive combination of instruments from around the globe, propelling this transcendental 60's masterpiece into the future.
Bang on a Can prove once again why they're one of the most exciting New Music ensembles performing today with this riveting version of Terry Riley's In C. There are a handful of recordings available of this minimalist masterpiece, but Bang on a Can's--featuring violin, chimes, clarinet, mandolin, and bass at the fore--is easily one of the best. The delicate tremolo of Scott Kuney's mandolin gives the entire recording a nervous energy that's much needed on this New Music warhorse. The piercing violin of Todd Reynolds is haunting, and Mark Stewart's electric guitar gives the ensemble added sonic punch. Throughout, Bang on a Can sound less like they're jamming and more like a taut musical machine bursting at the seams, running through Riley's motifs with abandon. It's a new, slightly ominous take on In C, but one that was much needed. Recommended. --Jason VerlindeSee all Editorial Reviews
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I was skeptical that this new Bang On a Can version, recorded in 1998, could equal the great 25th Anniversary concert with Riley himself, on New Albion, but it does, with a quite different approach. The 1990 recording is 76 minutes long, while this 1998 version is only 44 minutes long. Evan Ziporyn's Bang On a Can ensemble has only 11 musicians, while the 1990 version had 31. (Ziporyn played bass clarinet for Riley's 1990 concert.) The feel is quite different, with a sense of urgency and inexorability in contrast to the sense of endless, timeless cycling in the 1990 version. Riley and three others add vocals to the long 1990 version, which adds to the mystical, Eastern transcendental experience. Bang On a Can, with prominent bass, creates a distinctly Western "In C," which realizes Riley's goal of awakening and enlightenment in a more immanent way, through the flow of time in modern life, rather than outside it.
Simply superb, an essential interpretation for the new millennium.
It's understandable that this won't appeal to everyone, of course. When I was younger, I might not have had either the patience or perception to experience it properly; but I'm glad that I changed enough to appreciate it now. I find that it has a paradoxical quality, in that it's contemplative but also quite active -- it settles my being into a calm state, but it's an exceptionally aware, almost electrified calm. I agree with another poster here -- this will still be played & enjoyed in the year 3000 -- most highly recommended!
Never mind all that, because "In C" is one of the very few musical pieces that will still be regularly played in the year 3000. The score is a single page of scribbles. When that page is put in front of 57, or 30, or 96 musicians, and they dive in, it allows us, when we listen...
...to directly understand part of our place in the Universe.
Here is a group of closely-crowded egotistical people with problems, warts, compromises, mortgages, divorces, inappropriate lusts, intestinal problems, attitudes, fears, hopes. You and I probably wouldn't much enjoy their company. Some are probably aggressive enough to cut you off in traffic and give you the finger. Meanwhile, they are all looking at the same page of scribbles, communicating seamlessly with each other, and creating the closest thing to the Music of the Spheres that has ever been heard on this Earth.
How are we, as a race, capable of doing this thing? Communicating in this way? I wrote a review of the original recording that I poncily titled: "From What Mystical Grammar Springs This?" The phrase has since been stolen by many Riley-appreciation sites. I don't mind, but the question is real.
30, 60, 90 people looking at one sheet of paper and individually banging away on their musical typewriters for 30, 60, 90 minutes, and what they create is more profound, and is more beautiful, than Shakespeare at his best? Yes.
OK: It's a difficult piece to appreciate. Some of my brightest music-loving friends have recoiled in horror, but all it needs is a truly open mind. (I freely admit that a few hits of decent ganga doesn't hurt, either, but it's not necessary.)
But this is a review of Bang on a Can's version, not the original. Let's get back to my title: "You never forget your first Girl." I was astonished, almost immobile for several days, upon hearing the original recording. I've since collected all of them, including the rather rigid one from the Chinese film orchestra. Some are just wonderful, like the 25th Anniversary version, but you never forget your first girl. If this version becomes your first girl, then so be it. After all, it's just Life, the Universe, and Everything.