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Riley: Music for the Gift

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Album Review

This is the kick-off CD in the Terry Riley Archive Series sponsored by the Cortical Foundation label under their new imprint, Organ of Corti. This CD brings together four important early tape works by Riley and reveals how deeply he influenced so much of the tape-delay, cut-and-splice method of music creation begun in the late '60s. "The Gift" is the work that opens the album, a jazz piece performed by Chet Baker with his quartet, and featuring tape manipulations by Riley using a delay mechanism through two looped tape recorders. All of it performed live for French radio. Over five sections the jazz quartet is eventually displaced and becomes part of a unit of sound that repeats itself, over and over again, whether it be the trumpet, a vocal, or the rhythm section, creating — unintentionally, of course — the precursor to the work that would become "In C," and create the entire minimalist movement. "Bird of Paradise" is an early example of "plunderphonics," with heavy R&B soul jams, pop tunes, classical music, and who knows what else cut and looped with noise and effects, making them nearly unrecognizable by playing with different speeds and sonorities. Riley made something truly original. When it can be found, the groove itself becomes infectious, but just as it does, it is transformed into something else. Steve Reich used this method later to great effect on "It's Gonna Rain" and other recordings from the period. "Mescalin Mix" was inspired in part by John Cage's "Fontana Mix," Riley's own experiments with mescaline, and his work with Richard Maxfield. It was created over two years (1960-1962), using tape loops that would extend out Riley's window into the yard to a wine bottle spindle. This very piece, which is the single strangest piece of "music" he ever created, was used by choreographer Ann Halprin's legendary work "The Three-Legged Stool," and was added onto later by collaborations from many other composers and artists including Morton Subotnick. Finally the seminal "Concert for Two Pianos and Five Tape Recorders" is here as it was recorded at its premier at Hertz Hall in Berkeley, CA, in 1960 with an outrageously funny play-by-play broadcast narrative. The narrator confesses he knows less than nothing about Riley or the composition. He explains that there is improvisation in the piece but has no idea how it works and explains how it might work and is then appalled at how weird it all is in sum. This is an amazing collection and a truly awesome way to start off an archive series by one of the world's most original and prolific voices.

Biography

Born: 24 June 1935 in Colfax, CA

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Minimalist pioneer Terry Riley was among the most revolutionary composers of the postwar era; famed for his introduction of repetition into Western music motifs, he also masterminded early experiments in tape loops and delay systems which left an indelible mark on the experimental music produced in his wake. Riley was born June 24, 1935 in Colfax, California, and began performing professionally as a solo pianist during the '50s; by the middle of the decade, he was studying composition in San Francisco...
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Riley: Music for the Gift, Terry Riley
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