Wednesday, 21 March 2012

More Minimalism (Hippy hate and love for Riley)

“You have never done anything in your life but listen to this music as if that is all there is or ever will be.”

I distrust hippies. Not as much as punks used to – I distrust them even more, and most of their music is a degenerate two chord thrash that pretends to a brute intelligence while betraying lack of imagination. But hippies are only ever two puffs of a joint away from revealing some seriously chauvinistic attitudes, and they all went on to cut their hair and get jobs in silicon valley. Cheers.

Hang on, this was meant to be an article about In C by Terry Riley.Where was I?

Yes, so, before there was Pink Floyd or The Doors, there was Terry Riley. The quotation at the top of the page was from The San Francisco Chronicle. And while it might sound like a typical acid head explaining why The Beatles’ White Album is so cool, it was written about In C, in 1964. Riley was just early enough to avoid getting sucked into the whole mess of hippy culture, but late enough to be part of the scene that was inspired by world music and repetition.

In C was released in 1968, and was the first work that really made minimalism a popular genre. Since Riley would later get more and more into Indian music, it chimed with the general vibe of the time: since the score is made up of a series of musical phrases, and performers are invited to play ‘em how they feel ‘em, it can take on all sorts of different styles. The version I played on the radio show is African in tone: this Sunday’s version is rumoured to be more eastern.

 In the meantime, here's an appropriately trippy version of another Riley classic, A Rainbow In Curved Air. I can hear the similarities with Dark Side of the Moon period Floyd - it was released before it, so I console myself with the thought that the hippies were ripping off the classical composer. Fortunately, it doesn't have Roger Waters shouting all over it (an experience akin to going on a date with a man who explains why you ought to fancy him throughout the film).

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