A 25th Year Celebration of In C
New Music Theatre and Life on the Water in collaboration with Good Sound Foundation present music for the gift In C:
David Harrington, violin; John Sherba, violin; Hank Dutt, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, cello; Bill Douglass, flute; Bruce Ackley, woodwinds; Steve Adams, woodwinds; George Brooks, woodwinds; Steve Coughlin, woodwinds; John Sackett, woodwinds; Evan Ziporyn, woodwinds; Don Howe, trombone; Toyoji Tomita, trombone; Warner Jepson, piano; Chris Brown, synthesizer; Alden Jenks, synthesizer; Danny Tunick, pulse; William Winant, pulse; Don R. Baker, xylophone; Bill Maginnis, glockenspiel; Gino Robair, marimba; George Marsh, drums; Henry Kaiser, electric guitar; Gyan Riley, electric guitar; Ramon Sender, accordion; Jaron Lanier, various instruments; Blake Derby, voice; Mihr'un'Nisa Douglass, voice; Shabda Owens, voice; Terry Riley, voice.
Terry Riley & Loren Rush, musical directors
Paul Stubblebine, sound engineer; Greg Kuhn, assistant engineer; Ed Herrmann, recording; Larry Neff, lighting; Henry Kaiser, electric instrument liason; XXX Design, poster design; Randall Packer & Carter Scholz, coordinators.
music for the gift (1963)
In 1962/3 I was living in Paris working as a pianist playing for dances and accompanying floorshow acts in the serviceman's club on the NATO bases then existing in France. In the years immediately preceding this I had been pursuing an M.A. degree at the U.C. Berkeley music department, and was collaborating with LaMonte Young to produce music and sound environments for Anna Halprin's Dancers' Workshop productions, and playing Rinky-Dink piano in San Francisco's Gold Street Saloon, learning from ragtime master Wally Rose.
In the early summer of 1963 Ken Dewey, a playwright and pioneering Happenings maker, came to Paris with John Graham and other members of Anna Halprin's company, along with some members of the Living Theater who also happened to be in Europe at the time. Ken had recently written a play called The Gift which he wanted to use as the basis of a theater piece to be performed at the Theatre des Nations in Paris, and he asked me to be the composer and music director.
He rented the ruins of the Vieux Chateau in Valmondois outside Paris, and we all camped out in the shell of the building using the large hayloft as a rehearsal studio. Chet Baker arrived in Paris at this same time from Lucca, Italy, where he had spent a considerable period in jail on a narcotics possession charge. He had put together a quartet consisting of Luis Fuentes (trombone), Luigi Trussardi (bass), and George Solano (drums), and was playing at the Left Bank jazz cave Le Chat Qui Peche. Ken got Chet and his band to agree to be in the piece both as musicians and actors.
John Graham, Chet and the band, and I went to the studios of the RTF in the Florence Bernhart Theatre in Paris, and I asked them to record any music they would like to play. They chose the Miles Davis tune "So What" and a beautiful original blues duet by Chet with Luigi. On "So What" I recorded them both as an ensemble and as individual solos that I planned to re-piece together in a way that couldn't have been played live. Separately I had John Graham read isolated lines from The Gift.
I had the sound engineer cut up many segments from the solos and asked him to fashion them into different-sized loops. Then I asked him if he could devise some kind of long echo with which to process the loops. He ingeniously spanned the tape across two tape recorders feeding the playback sound from the second back into the first, therby creating the first time-lag-accumulator with which I was to labor strenuously during the psychedelic 60's in Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band. With this technique and many tape loops, I fashioned the music for The Gift.
In the play the tapes were used as a background against which the musicians soloed and the actors improvised their parts as a kind of extended jazz theater. The cassette heard here is a copy of the original mono tape of a suite I arranged in 1963 from excerpts used in the play. It was first heard in the USA at the Tape Music Center in San Francisco as an opening for the world premiere of In C in November of 1964.
In C (1964)
What is remarkable about In C is how directly and immediately it makes its effect. Even at first hearing it is accessible yet free of banality, intricate without being pretentious, visceral without being simple-minded. There seems never to have been any doubt about its success or importance.
Alfred Frankenstein reviewed the world premiere in the November 8, 1964 San Francisco Chronicle: "[Riley] has developed a style like that of no one else on earth, and he is bound to make a profound impression with it...[In C] is formidably repetitious, but harmonic changes are slowly introduced into it' there are melodic variations and contrasts of rhythm within a framework of relentless continuity, and climaxes of great sonority and high complexity appear and are dissolved in the endlessness. At times you feel you have never done anything all your life long but listen to this music and as if that is all there is or ever will be, but it is altogether absorbing, exciting, and moving."
Douglas Leedy wrote, "There aren't very many really revolutionary pieces of music in this century or any other: pieces that seem like cultural mutations that spring spontaneously into being without visible or audible precedent. Le Sacre du Printemps is an authentic example. So, I believe, is In C...In C unquestionably belongs, to my mind at least, to the elite group of great elaborations of C tonality, including Bach's Overture No. 1, Mozart's Jupiter symphony, Schubert's cello quintet, and the Sibelius third and seventh symphonies."
Composers of both "art" and "pop" music lost no time incorporating the lessons of In C into their work. Though widely credited as the forebear of "minimalist" music, it more significantly showed a way back to tonality in Western art music without simply retrenching, as some composers later did, to neo-Romantic traditional harmony.
The score is a single page, for any number and combination of melody instruments. Every player reads the same part. Fifty-three relatively short melodic patterns of different length are played in order, each repeated an indefinite number of times. Over a constant pulse, each musician advances independently through the score, creating a loose-jointed canon" (Douglas Leedy.)
"The effect is of a sparkling, glinting crystal which, as it slowly rotates, changes almost imperceptibly in color from a clear C major to a bright, yet more slowly pulsating e minor, then back to C rather triumphantly, and finally takes on the cast of a much more somber and enigmatic g minor."
Perhaps the most inventive aspect of In C is the way it generates macro-structure from micro-structure. Its only formal organization is at the level of the repeating melodic cells. All larger-scale features arise in performance, from the ever-changing unscored interweave of lines, time, and timbre. Almost unbelievably, this spontaneously evolving structure remains interesting, even riveting, for an hour and more. It is a major compositional discovery.
In C is a very American piece, in its happy melding of elements from jazz, Indian raga, and tape-loop music, its open structure, and its free instrumentation. It's a democratic, communal music that eschews soloistic virtuosity in favor of close-listening ensemble musicianship. Though very much a product of its time, In C remains a liberating excursion in musical form.
Scenes from the Premiere (November 2, 1964)
Jeannie Brecken Steve Reich Jon Gibson Terry Riley Warner Jepson Stan Schaap Sonny Lewis Ramon Sender James Lowe Morton Subotnick Tony Martin Mel Weitzman Pauline Oliveros Phil Winsor
Terry Riley: Anne and I came back from a couple of years in Europe in February, 1964. We rented a tiny house right at the top of Potrero Hill, and I wrote In C in April or May.
Ramon Sender: I was living about three blocks away, and I remember coming over for a spaghetti dinner. I was especially impressed with the way you tested the spaghetti by throwing the strands against the kitchen wall. If they stuck, they were done. You and Anne must have eaten a lot of spaghetti, because the kitchen was well decorated.
Terry: Then that summer I think it was you who called me, or maybe Mort (Subotnick), and said, "Want to do a concert at the Tape Music Center?"
Ramon: According to the flyer we mailed that fall, we originally thought of splitting a program in January between you and Jim Tenney. I have no idea why we changed the dates. But anyway, suddenly you were in our November slot. Usually the concert was on a Monday, with a repeat later in the week after the reviews came out.
Terry: I remember driving all over the city rounding up performers I had known over the years. Steve (Reich) brought in his friend Jon Gibson, there were some Mime Troupe people like our 'First Pulse Lady' Jeannie Brecken, and Sonny Lewis with whom I played in a jazz combo in an Officers' Club in France. I think this was the first new music he had ever played.
Mort Subotnick: The morning of the concert I arrived at the Tape Music Center and found a notice from the Fire Department on our front door declaring the building off limits until further notice. So I phoned our attorney, Jerry Hill. He was at home trying to avoid being served a subpoena by hiding behind the sofa, so our conversation was a bit odd. Anyway, his advice was just to leave the front door open. It opened out towards the street, so no one would see the notice.
Ramon: Yeah, it was Sol Landau who brought the heat. He had acquired the J.S. rights to Jean Genet's film Our Lady of the Flowers. The homosexual love scenes in prison were considered somewhat shocking for the era. Every time he hired a hall and showed the film, the fire department closed the hall on some technicality. We didn't even know Landau was showing the film in our auditorium until we found the notice. Or I should say KPFA's and our auditorium, because we sublet to KPFA and they in turn allowed different groups like Canyon Cinema to rent it for an evening.
Mort: We found out we were on the House Unamerican Activities list because the building had been previously rented by the California Labor School. They had taken out a building permit to install sprinklers but had never done the work.
Ramon: Alfred Frankenstein, the Chronicle art and music critic, showed up for the repeat performance. Mort stayed on the street in case the cops showed up.
Mort: One cop did show up. He thought we were into drugs and nude dancing, so I invited him inside to listen to the music. Also I showed him some of Frankenstein's reviews of previous concerts. Alfred, the cop and I were standing in the hall, and the cop said, "Franken-steen?" You've got to be kidding!" "No, he's a very famous critic," I replied.
Ramon: I remember we finally solved the situation by measuring the width of the passageway out the back fire exit into Oak Street. The fire chief decided if we left the gate unlocked, we were legal.
Mort: I remember Terry wore a floppy purple bow tie and orange pants. The audience was also dressed very colorfully. It was sort of the beginning of the psychedelic dress-up era.
Terry: Bill Maginnis recorded both concerts. The tape from the first night [Nov. 2] was a bit heavy on the saxophone, but the second night's [Nov. 6] was good. That's the one I have always called the "World Premiere" one.
Bill Maginnis: Ramon was playing the Chamberlin Keyboard up in the studio, and we were pumping it through the stage speakers downstairs. All I remember is that at one point he had to dash to the men's room, so I took over the pattern he was playing until he got back. Or was that the rehearsal? Maybe it was the rehearsal.
Terry Riley, a Californian born in 1935, launched what is now known as Minimalisem with his groundbreaking classic In C, composed in 1964. This seminal work provided the conception for a form built out of interlocking repetitive patterns that was to influence a generation of composers including Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and John Adams, as well as pop and rock groups The Who, The Soft Machine, Curved Air, Tangerine Dream, and musicians Robert Fripp and Mike Oldfield.
Then came the works for electronic keyboard and soprano saxophone: A Rainbow in Curved Air, Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band, The Persian Surgery Dervishes, and Sri Camel. These hypnotic, multi-layered, polymetric, brightly orchestrated, eastern-flavored electronic keyboard improvisations set the stage for the New Age movement which was to appear a decade or so later.
In 1970 Riley went to India to study the ancient vocal traditions of Raga with the world-renowned master Pandit Pran Nath and has continued that discipline to this day, frequently appearing in concert with Pandit Pran Nath as tamboura and vocal accompanist. He taught composition and North Indian Raga at Mills College in Oakland during the 1970s and early 1980s.
At this time he met David Harrington, founder of the Kronos String Quartet, and began the long association which has to this day produced nine string quartets: G Song, Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector, Remember This O Mind, Mythic Birds Waltz, Cadenza on the Night Plain, the five epic quartets of Salome Dances for Peace, and a quintet The Crows Rosary.
Besides the works written for Kronos, Terry Riley has produced a variety of new compositions in the 1980s: The Pipes of Medh for the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, The Room of Remembrance for Zeitgeist, a new music ensemble, The Harp of New Albion for solo piano tuned in resonant intonation, and Five Songs for the state national radio women's choir from Bulgaria.
A noted keyboard performer and improvisor, Riley has for many years appeared in the USA, Europe, Japan, and India as a solo performer and with the young North Indian sitar and tabla master, Krishna Bhatt, and with saxophonist George Brooks.
Riley is currently at work on an orchestral work commissioned by the Carnegie Hall to celebrate its centenary in 1990/91, to be performed by the St. Louis symphony.
In the past twelve years, The Kronos Quartet has shattered the illusions of contemporary music and emerged as a leading force for new work. Combining a unique musical vision with a fearless dedication to experimentation, Kronos has assembled a body of work unparalleled in its range and scope of expression, and in the process, has captured the attention of audiences worldwide.
The Quartet's extensive repertoire ranges from Bartok, Webern, and Ives to Charles Mingus, John Cage and Howlin' Wolf. In addition to working closely with modern masters such as Terry Riley and John Zorn, Kronos commissions new works from today's most innovative composers and mines the wealth of music of cultures from around the world, extending its reach as far as Uganda, Australia, Japan, Argentina, and the Soviet Union.
The sound system for this performance is an 'installation in progress' by Good Sound Foundation. Funded in part by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, this permanent system will be developed to research a wide range of issues relating to sound in live performance and to create new artists' tools.
Participation in the 25th anniversary performance of In C signals the beginning of GSF's first phase of ongoing use and research of the Life on the Water installation. GSF's staff for the In C Performance Project includes: Arthur Stidfole, executive director; Richard Zvonar, project director; Paul Stubblebine, technical director/sound engineer; Greg Kuhn, assistant engineer.
New Music Theatre, founded in 1988, is a performance series presenting music theater and interdisciplinary art works by Bay Area composers & artists. New Music Theatre also presents historically important intermedia works from throughout the twentieth century. Randall Packer, art director, Bill Maginnis, technical director.
Upcoming concert: New Music Theatre, together with the Goethe Institute and Theatre Artaud, will present the West Coast premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen's music theater work from 1960, Originale. May 3,4,5 - 8:30 pm at Theatre Artaud, tickets $12/$8. New Music Theatre, 1276 Jackson St #5, San Francisco CA 94109, phone (415) 474-1045.
Life on the Water presents artists who originate their own work. Our commitment is to a blend of experimental stage forms and political statement, of traditional stage forms and cultural diversity. We have a collective leadership. Our artistic directors are: Leonard Pitt, Ellen Sebastian, and Bill Talen. The executive director is Joe Lambert, and the managing producer is Susan Sillins.