Mills College Music Department and the Center for Contemporary Music present
30th Anniversary of Terry Riley's "In C"
Friday, September 30, 1994, 8:00 PM Mills College Concert Hall Oakland, CA
Ritmos and Melos
David Abel, violin Julie Steinberg, piano William Winant, percussion
Ritmos A corruption of the Greek Rhythmos= measure, measured, motion, flow, movement, procedure, etc. characterized by basically regular recurrence of elements or features, as beat or accent, in alteration with opposite or different elements or features.
I began with a made up word Ritmos which sounded strong to me and rugged like a Greek coastline and rich like a tomato sauce laced with herbs, olive oil and ochra. An insistent driving 4/4 piano part flying with a lyric violin with vibraphone punctuation. Dissolve. A brooding elegiac melody with rhythmos aftertones still washing up on its shore. Forceful interruption by strident eastern melismas searching for a coherent shape. Finds it 7/8 ritmos-rhapsody in which is buried the 4 against 3 struggle that ensues. Rhapsody wins out. Dissolve.
Melos Greek=Song, Tune or Air, pleasing sounds or arrangement of sounds in sequence; musical quality, as in the arrangement of words; a sequence of single tones, usually in the same key or mode to produce a rhythmic whole.
Still thinking Greece, I made a stately slow dance laced with intricate rhythms, a nostalgic descending melody and countermelody over an evenly measured chord progression. I was attracted to the beauty and grace of this phrase and tried to sustain it and let it have it's own voice as it unfolds over it's own set of variations.
Ritmos and Melos were written in the summer of 1993 for the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio. They were commissioned by Millie Steinberg. -Terry Riley
Compositions for Solo Piano
Terry Riley, piano
Contemporary Performance Ensemble , directed by Steed Cowart and William Winant with special guests David Abel, David Bernstein, George Brooks, Chris Brown, Trevor Dunn, Phil Franklin, Ben Goldberg, Don Howe, Maggi Payne, Wendy Reid, John Schott, Julie Steinberg, Toyoji Tomita
Contemporary Performance Ensemble
Danielle DeGruttola Christine Denton Thomas Djll Matthew Goodheart Elizabeth Gray Jennifer Hymer Matt Ingalls Aurora Josephson Mollie Lounibos Brian Pearson Scott Rosenberg
Process Music," "modular music," "systematic music," "pulse music," trance music," and "minimal music" are terms associated with the musical style pioneered by Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass in the 1960s. But the term "minimalism," which is widely used today and implies a radical simplicity of structure and an extreme economy of materials, first appeared in art criticism as early as in 1929 and was re-introduced in a 1965 article in Arts Magazine entitled "Minimal Art" by philosopher/aesthetician Richard Wollheim.
The history of the word "minimalism" is indicative of its multi-disciplinary scope. Robert Rauschenberg's white canvases, Frank Stella' s black paintings and Ellsworth Kelly's monochrome panels, Simone Forti 's experiments with minimalist dance movements, sculpture by Robert Morris and Donald Judd, Andy Warhol's Sleep (a film of a man sleeping for six hours), and the "events" staged by performance artists (such as George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Takehisa Kosugi and La Monte Young) are just a few of the many examples of the wide variety of artists who produced minimalist works during the 1950s and early 1960s.
In music, perhaps the earliest minimalist work dating from this period may be La Monte Young's Trio for Strings (1958), a composition employing the long sustained tones that would occupy Young throughout his career. But musical minimalism really gained momentum in 1964 with the first performance of Terry Riley's In C.
The first performance of In C took place at the San Francisco Tape Center (which later moved to Mills College and was re-named the Center for Contemporary Music) in October, 1964. Among the performers were musicians who at one time or another were students and members of the Mills Music Department faculty such as Pauline Oliveros, Anthony Martin, Ramon Sender, Steve Reich, and Morton Subotnick.
San Francisco Chronicle critic Alfred Frankenstein described Riley's work as "Music like none other on earth. . . . It is formidably repetitious, but harmonic changes are slowly introduced into it; there are melodic variations, and contrasts of rhythms within a framework of relentless continuity. . . At times you feel you have never done anything all your life 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 too."
Frankenstein's remarks show a sensitivity to the works' musical structure and aesthetic intent. In C consists of 53 melodic fragments. The work is scored for any combination of instruments. Each musician plays the 53 fragments in order, playing each one as many times as he or she desires. The amount of tacit time between each fragment is also up to the performers. The ensemble is synchronized by an eighth note pulse that begins the work and the piece ends when all of the performers reach the 53rd fragment.
In C was intended for either an amateur or professional ensemble. But, when the performers are skilled improvisers accustomed to listening to each other a vast landscape of often intricate rhythmic, textural, spatial, and tonal relationships emerges. Despite this complexity the work is accessible to every listener and is both a reaction against the atonality and the mannered technology of post World War II serialism and an affirmation of 1960s alternative culture. _David Bernstein
Terry Riley was born in Colfax California on June 24, 1935. He studied composition at San Francisco State College from 1955 until 1957. Later he worked under Robert Erickson, and studied piano with Duane Hampton at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with Adolf Baller. He financed his studies by working as a ragtime pianist in the Gold Street Saloon in San Francisco. Riley wrote his first composition at the age of 19.
He finished his studies at University of California, Berkeley in 1961 with Seymour Shifrin and William Denny. He was an original member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center (which later became Mills's Center for Contemporary Music). From 1962-64 Riley traveled around Europe. At this time Riley gave his first All-Night-Concerts, playing saxophone and several keyboard instruments and he also began composing his first repetitive works.
Riley launched what is now known as the Minimalist music movement with In C in 1964. In the 60's and 70's he turned his attention to solo works for electric keyboards and soprano saxophone and pioneered the use of various kinds of tape delay in live performance resulting in another set of milestone works, A Rainbow in Curved Air, Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band, The Persian Surgery Dervishes and Shri Camel.
In 1970 Riley begin studying with renowned vocal master Pandit Pran Nath. He has frequently appeared with Pandit Pran Nath as vocal and tamboura accompanist. As associate professor at Mills College (1971 to 1980), he taught courses in North Indian Raga and music composition.
At Mills he met David Harrington, the founder and first violinist in the Kronos Quartet, and began the long association that has produced nine string quartets, a keyboard quintet, Crows Rosary , and a concerto for string quartet and orchestra, The Sands, commissioned by the Salzberg Festival in 1991. Cadenza on The Night Plain was selected by both Time and Newsweek as one of the 10 best classical albums of the year. The epic five-quartet cycle, Salome Dances for Peace was selected as the #1 classical album of the year by USA Today and was nominated for a Grammy. Riley has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Riley's innovative seven-movement orchestral work, Jade Palace, was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for its centennial celebration of 1990/1991 and performed there by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Leonard Slatkin. June Buddhas, a three movement work for chorus and orchestra based on the choruses from the Mexico City Blues of Jack Kerouac,was commissioned by the Koussevitzsky Foundation in 1991.
Terry Riley has composed for a variety of new music ensembles including Rova Saxophone Quartet, Array Music of Toronto, Zeitgeist, Stephen Scott's bowed piano ensemble, California Ear Unit, guitarist David Tannenbaum, pianist Werner Baertschi and the Amati String Quartet. In 1989 he formed the new performance ensemble Khayal which specializes in group vocal and instrumental improvisation.
In 1992 Riley formed a small theater company, The Traveling Avantt-Gaard, to perform his Opera/Theatre Piece, The Saint Adolf Ring which is based on the divinely mad drawings, poetry, writings and mathematical calculations of Adolf Woefli, an early 20th century Swiss artist.
Program notes compiled by Christi Denton, '98
This concert is sponsored in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Please turn off audible electronic pagers and alarm watches. No seating during the performance of a piece.