Friday, January 29, 2010

50 Cent Albums: "In C" by Terry Riley

one track - complete album (45:32)
available here

Terry Riley's seminal "In C" presents each member of an ensemble with a sequence of 53 short musical phrases they must play in order and in the same tempo, but which they are free to start and repeat when they wish. Given the open-ended nature of the score and its suitability to different combinations of instruments, not to mention the pure fun in playing it, there's no surprise that many different recordings exist.

"In C" relies very much on that mainstay of minimalism, the pulse. Eighth notes in C are banged out for the entire duration and it is against this background that different rhythms and harmonic changes develop. If you enjoy Steve Reich (whom I'll feature next week) this will put you in heaven.

The interpretations I've seen range from a very brief 28:24 to 76:20, but I am most familiar with the original 1964 Columbia Masterworks vinyl, which clocked in at 42:10. The sound wasn't very good on that tinny recording, though the ensemble, including Jon Hassell and Stuart Dempster, was exemplary. (It's since been remastered for the 45th anniversary CD release and sounds fantastic.)

Unfortunately eMusic does not have the classic version, but you can choose from the Ensemble Percussione Ricerca, Shanghai Film Orchestra, Société de musique contemporaine du Québec or even a version for solo flute.

But I recommend Bang On A Can's version, recorded 1998, released in 2001. Compared with the original the tempo is slower, the timbre warmer and the pulse an octave lower. This all combines to create a mellow version than the original. Really you need both.

Or, get a few friends together, print off the score and give it a try yourself!



aL said...

Oh, that takes me back. When I was a college sophomore back in 1993, I took part in a performance of "In C" with other music composition majors, and I was the poor guy who had to bang out the half-note C's the whole time. We rehearsed it twice, the first time taking 45 minutes, the second time taking well over an hour. When we actually performed it, it was about 50 minutes.

robin said...

Oh dear. I would hate to be that guy and you were that guy. ;-)

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