Terry Riley: In C


In C


Terry Riley (composer, soprano sax)


In C (Columbia 7178)

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Terry Riley (composer, soprano sax),

Margaret Hassell (pulse, piano), Jon Hassell (trumpet), Edward Burnhan (vibraphone), Jan Williams (marimbaphone), Stuart Dempster (trombone), Lawrence Singer (oboe), David Rosenboom (viola), David Shostac (flute)


Composed by Terry Riley


Recorded: March 1968


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

This composition, dating from 1964, did more than any other work to give impetus and momentum to the minimalist aesthetic. Much like a jazz song, "In C" can be substantially different every time it is performed. The lineup of instruments can vary, as well as the length of the performance. But nothing is left to chance (or, as an academic composer might say, to "aleatory factors"): every participant must progress sequentially through a series of 53 musical phrases, repeating each motif an indeterminate number of times before moving on to the next. The concept is elegantly simple, but the layering of the different fragments creates shimmering superstructures of sound. There are many recorded versions of "In C" on the market, some jazzier, others more cerebral. But I still prefer this brisk and stark 1968 recording with Riley in the band, made at a time when this music was less a masterpiece to be revered, and more a wakeup call to sonic seekers of all stripes.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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