TERRY RILEY

A Rainbow in Curved Air
Using overdubbing, Riley plays all the instruments on the title track: electric organ, 2 electric harpsichords (a Baldwin electric harpsichord & a RMI Rock-Si-Chord), dumbec, and tambourine. The piece moves through several sections; following the opening theme and introduction of “placid chords,” Riley introduces “an explosion, a procession of right-hand lines that flutter and pirouette over the over the pulsing rhythmic patterns.”

TERRY RILEY

keyboard study

The score to “Keyboard Study 1” is spare: two pages of musical cells and two pages of written instructions for how to navigate and manipulate those cells provide the pitch material, but choices about duration, dynamics, and shape are left up to the performer. There are three ostinati that form the skeleton of the piece between which are related sets of variations that will be mixed, matched, and sometimes played on top of the primary pattern. Riley offers the recipe for how to mix the ostinati and variation sets then its up to the performer(s) to choose which variation to use out of a particular set and how to shape the transitions from one ostinato to the next. Riley’s music empowers performers to create and react while also bonding their expression to the act of composition.

Doug Aitken

Sonic Mountain
As a unique site-specific commission for the Donum Estate, Los Angeles-based artist Doug Aitken has created the ethereal work Sonic Mountain (Sonoma), three concentric circles of suspended stainless-steel pipes whose differing lengths form a wave at their base, mirroring the free Euler-Bernoulli shape that describes the chime’s frequency. Installed in the eucalyptus grove, measuring forty-five feet in diameter and twice human height, and comprising 365 chimes — one for each day of the year — Sonic Mountain (Sonoma) works with one of Donum’s most persistent elements, the Carneros breeze that cools the grapes and creates a temperate zone for growing Pinot Noir. Each day, the warm wind begins its soft whisper, rustling through the vines and trees, building in strength through the day until mid-afternoon, and then gradually diminishing in force. Known to have been used since at least the ancient Roman period in Europe and the second century in India and China, wind chimes create chance, inharmonic music. At Donum, Aitken has teamed up with his friend the composer Terry Riley to compose chords in the chimes to be played by the wind , depending on how it blows, so the lyrical work sounds throughout the estate, demonstrating the artist’s practice of making installations that synthesize many media and are never constrained by tradition.
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Glenn Branca

Lesson Nº 1 + The Ascension
Glenn Branca has always been a musician positioned halfway between the role of avant-garde composer and that of a rock musician. A pupil and disciple of the masters of American minimalism such as La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, he has always had to fight against prejudice and fierce criticism. His position was certainly uncomfortable, too academic for rock fans and too “politically incorrect” for academics. In fact, Branca was trying to unhinge all the limits imposed by the rigid schemes of the avant-garde, aware of the fact that those who want to be truly avant-garde should have no limits. John Cage was also able to criticize him, even calling him a fascist ( Luciano Berio also did so for all minimalists) for the excessive rigidity of his compositions, even though he recognized his innovative power. After having created his best known album, The Ascension (1981), a true monument of maximalism played with a classical rock formation (guitars, bass and drums), he tries to approach a different format, the Symphony, as always halfway between rock and academia. Branca will like the experiment and will re-propose it several times in the following decades, to date there are sixteen symphonies (not all recordings are available). Here is how young Branca’s ensemble appeared to the American composer John Adams in one of his first live performances of the First Symphony: “Branca’s event that I listened to at the Japan Center Theater in San Francisco in 1981 was one of his symphonies for guitar . The group didn’t look very different from thousands of other independent or alternative rock bands of the time: guys in jeans and worn t-shirts busy with cables while maintaining that typical distracted expression of rock musicians.

 

Laurie Spiegel

the expanding universe
The Expanding Universe is the classic 1980 debut album by composer and computer music pioneer Laurie Spiegel. The pieces comprising The Expanding Universe combine slowly evolving textures with the emotional richness of intricate counterpoint, harmony, and complex rhythms (John Fahey and J. S. Bach are both cited as major influences in the original cover’s notes), all built of electronic sounds. These works, often grouped with those of Terry Riley, Phil Glass, Steve Reich, differ in their much shorter, clear forms. Composed and realized between 1974 and 1977 on the GROOVE system developed by Max Mathews and F.R. Moore at Bell Laboratories, the pieces on this album were far ahead of their time both in musical content and in how they were made.