Terry Riley's in C

Terry Riley's in C

Robert Carl

Print publication date: 2009

ISBN: 9780195325287

Publisher: Oxford University Press


This book examines Terry Riley's In C as a new paradigm of “classical” composition. In C is only one page long, consists of fifty-three compact modules, is of open instrumentation and length, and generates itself through a set of simple and direct rules. At a time when contemporary concert music was pushing the limits of complexity and information density, In C is an essay in economy; it explores how much can be gotten out of what seems to be so little. Riley's 1964 work is also important in the way it sets the standard for American minimalist repetitive practice, for the use of modality and slow harmonic progression for the acceptance of world music and non-“classical” models, and for the use of structured improvisation to create a new idea of form and development. The book explores the history of In C, in terms of Riley's development as a composer in California in the early 1960s; of the story of the 1964 San Francisco premiere; of the history of the “second premiere” in New York in 1968, when the piece was recorded for Columbia records; and of its influence and legacy as described by subsequent experts and a close examination of later recordings. Throughout there are extensive original interviews with Riley and most of the participants in the 1964 concert and 1968 recording.