Terry Riley (1935, American)

Although he was, in particular with his seminal “In C”, the inventor of repetitive minimalism in 1964 (although he himself claims that it was all masterminded by his mentor and friend LaMonte Young), Terry Riley has not been the main proponent of that aesthetic. He left that to his immediate or distant followers – Reich, Glass and Adams plus a flock of European composers who began to surf the wave in the late 1970s, Nyman, Tavener, Gorecki, Pärt, Andriessen…  – and rapidly moved on to other things. In the 1970s Riley concentrated on night-long improvisations on the keyboard inspired by LaMonte Young (a good example of what it might have sounded like is given by The Harp of New Albion) and on mastering (then teaching) the art of North-Indian Raga, under the tutelage of Pandit Pran Nath. My first and most overwhelming encounter with the music of Riley was with the series of string quartets he composed for the Kronos Quartet in the early to mid-1980s, which signalled Riley’s return to “traditional” composition and notation, but imbued the new sap acquired through years of studying and practicing North-Indian music and other non-Western musical traditions. I personally prefer the “early”, motoric repetitive composer of “In C” and the keyboard Studies and the later, “World-Music Meets Classical” composer of the string quartets, to the composer of psychedelic pop/jazz music.

Here’s the list of what I’ve reviewed of Riley, roughly organized in ascending order of performers, with a special group for In C, which can be performed on any number of instruments:

The Harp of New Albion. Terry Riley, piano (3-4 January 1986). 2 CDs Celestial Harmonies CD CEL018/19 14018-2 (1986)

Keyboard Studies 1 & 2, Tread on the trail. Fabrizio Ottaviucci October 2006 (Studies), June-August 2007 (Tread). Stradivarius STR 33793 (2006)


Cadenza On The Night Plain (1983). Sunrise of the Planetary DreamCollector (1980). G Song (1980). Mythic Birds Waltz (1983). Kronos Quartet 21-23 October 1984. Gramavision R2 79444UK edition Hannibal HNCD 1509 (1988). Original CD issue Gramavision 18-7014-2 (1985) without G Song.

Salome Dances for Peace (1985-6). Kronos Quartet 8/88. 2 CDs Elektra Nonesuch 9 79217-2 , French/European edition 7559-79217-2 (1989)

Requiem for Adam (1998) (Ascending the Heaven Ladder, Cortejo Fùnebre en el Monte Diablo, Requiem for Adam).The Philosopher’s Hand for piano. Kronos Quartet, Terry Riley piano (in The Philosopher’s Hand) April 1999 (Cortejo Fùnebre) and August 2000. Elektra Nonesuch 7559-79639-2 (2001), European edition 7559-79639-2.


A Rainbow in Curved Air, Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band. Terry Riley (electric organ, electric harpsichord, rocksichord, dumbec, tambourine in Rainbow, soprano saxophone, electric organ in Poppy Nogood).  CBS MK 7315 (1989, LP originally published in 1969)

Intuitive Leaps: Salome’s excellent extention, The room of remembrance. Zeitgeist. Work Music WRK002-3 (1994), Sony SK 60555 (1998)


In C

to be completed

Comments are welcome