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Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 12:51 pm
by Adam Blake
Terry Riley's concert at the Barbican last night was some kind of triumph of music for music's sake. A concert hall packed full of people who had come to listen to the music of this 81 year old Californian. The first half consisted of new material: duets with his son Gyan playing guitar and Riley playing piano. Familiar ground - but only if the joy of constant modal invention can be described as such. Riley's musical thought processes are as wide open as Sonny Rollins's, say, or Coltrane's, but as my friend Clive said: "It's just SO not jazz!" Nor is it the the kind of precious soundscape that ECM used to champion with the likes of Keith Jarrett or Jan Garbarek. No, Riley has remained a complete original largely by remaining true to what he learned from studying the disciplines of Indian Classical music. He doesn't copy it, he uses its conventions for his own musical ends. He thinks modally at all times it seems, but just as you're getting used to the mode, he will change it in a way that an Indian musician never would. He has listened to jazz, of course, but he doesn't copy that either. He makes his own music. Always.

The classic "In C" formed the second half of the concert. How many times has Riley played "In C"? And yet, written into its construction is the certainty that no two versions could ever be the same. Tonight the performance was by 20 musicians from the London Contemporary Orchestra - most of them looked like recent music college graduates (can you imagine what fun it would be to get a call, maybe from your old professor, saying: d'you want to play "In C" with Terry Riley at the Barbican?). There was a double bass which gave this rendition more bottom end than usual. There was a celeste, three percussionists, various strings, a pipe organ, flute, two electric guitars, three singers - with Riley also singing from time to time and playing melodica as well as grand piano. Together, the ensemble really shook the house. Wave after wave of shifting tectonic plates of music - like controlling the weather, or the earthquakes of Riley's home state. It was about 50 minutes or so. I've seen Riley do a 90 minute version in the past - but he is 81. Time enough for sure to lose oneself completely in the vibrant timelessness of this great music. As I listened I thought how, even now, Riley isn't given sufficient credit for rescuing musical academia from Musique Concrete, aleatoric theories and electronic bleeps - stuff which, however interesting it might be to read about, just isn't much fun to listen to. Then in 1964, up pops this diffident bohemian with this completely original idea. "In C" is utterly musical, attractive to the ear even as it takes you to the strangest places. Yes, the basic technique is borrowed from Javanese or Indonesian music, as was a lot of the timbre of Cage's prepared piano music. It's easy to see that now. But just as with his use of Indian traditions ("In C" must have been written before Riley went to India), Riley made music, makes music, with these techniques that is entirely his own. And entirely melodious, sonorous, never ugly or cynically manipulative - like Zappa, his near contemporary, was often guilty of being. I daresay Riley's music is as truly Californian as Beethoven's is German or Vaughan-Williams is English, but only in that it is genuinely international and also, far out... (in both the hippie and literal sense.)

Somewhere there is a cloud up there where "In C" is played forever. I am very happy to visit it regularly and stay awhile. It's been 40 years since I first heard it. It is cleansing and pure. It never lets you down.

Re: Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2016 11:46 am
by Chris P
good reading, music reviewing. Enjoyed reading this yesterday over at the other place (fb)

Re: Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2016 11:52 am
by Adam Blake
Thanks Chris. I put it here in the hope that the wise Facebook refuseniks get to see it, and that it has a little bit more longevity.

Re: Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 4:15 pm
by NormanD
"In The Groove With The Daddy of Repetition". I have a feeling that the reviewer of this piece in The Guardian did not write the headline.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/ ... -orchestra

Re: Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2016 12:04 pm
by Rob Hall
Richard Williams was disappointed, but is very informative in telling us so: https://thebluemoment.com/2016/09/25/in ... -barbican/

Re: Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:55 pm
by alister prince
Adam, as an Fb refusenik: gawd bless yer guv'na!
Aly

Re: Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2016 11:50 am
by Adam Blake
Aly: No problem.

Richard Williams's review is the kind of learned twaddle that makes me writhe. His primary concern seems to be to show the reader how much he knows about the subject at hand, and how unimpressed he is by the sincere efforts of the artists involved. "Big band riffing"... Maybe he should have stayed at home listening to his doubtless exhaustive collection of Count Basie records.

Re: Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 9:31 am
by willvine
Adam Blake wrote: His primary concern seems to be to show the reader how much he knows about the subject at hand, and how unimpressed he is by the sincere efforts of the artists involved.


My primary concern is not to show you all how much I know about the subject. My primary concern is to big-mouth the fact that I was very early on to the man and A Rainbow in Curved Air is/was probably the hippest, grooviest thing I ever flashed around. Never really got round to In C until that marvellous African Express version came out a couple of years ago.


I've pretty well always enjoyed RW's reviews and, to be fair to him, I've had many a night like that where I've been unaccountably unmoved whilst all around seemed spellbound. These often involved big bands failing to get airborne.

Re: Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 10:09 am
by AndyM
Adam Blake wrote:Aly: No problem.

Richard Williams's review is the kind of learned twaddle that makes me writhe. His primary concern seems to be to show the reader how much he knows about the subject at hand, and how unimpressed he is by the sincere efforts of the artists involved. "Big band riffing"... Maybe he should have stayed at home listening to his doubtless exhaustive collection of Count Basie records.



But just because musicians are 'sincere' doesn't make them immune to criticism, does it ?

The vast majority of deluded wannabes on The X Factor auditions 'sincerely' believe in their (non) talent. But they still need to be told how wrong they are.

When I reviewed Prince at Wembley Arena during his 'artist formerly know as' era he sincerely thought we all wanted to hear long, noodly jams and none of the hits so I sincerely ripped the piss out of him in print. (He was still a genius, mind you.)

Re: Terry Riley: Barbican 24.9.16

PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 2:58 pm
by Adam Blake
AndyM wrote:
Adam Blake wrote:Aly: No problem.

Richard Williams's review is the kind of learned twaddle that makes me writhe. His primary concern seems to be to show the reader how much he knows about the subject at hand, and how unimpressed he is by the sincere efforts of the artists involved. "Big band riffing"... Maybe he should have stayed at home listening to his doubtless exhaustive collection of Count Basie records.



But just because musicians are 'sincere' doesn't make them immune to criticism, does it ?


Of course not, but I was there too. I witnessed a full Barbican give Riley a standing ovation. I felt the atmosphere in the place. It was excited, delighted and happy. I think Williams was just in a bad mood. I know a boring rendition of 'In C' when I hear it. The only thing I agree with Williams about was the slightly ill-judged attempt at a dramatic ending.