Profile: Terry Riley


Born in Colfax, California, 1935.

This revolutionary composer proposed new ways of exploring the artificial labyrinth of sonoric patterns. Electric mantras cyclically weaved in search of transcending the usual dimensions of recorded sound. He is considered as one of the most significant contributors to the creation and development of minimalist music, which was based in a mixture-distortion of serialism, indeterminacy and, over all, (a)tonality.

During the 60´s and 70´s, Terry Riley became famous for his “all night flights” which included sonoric improvisations of Riley’s organ harmonium and tape-delayed saxophone playing non-stop sessions that lasted from eight to twelve hours.

Influenced by Karl Heinz Stockhausen, Riley has worked, among many others, with La Monte Young, Steve Reich, Rova Saxophone Quartet and John Cale. Big league musicians like Philip Glass, Toru Takemitsu, Kronos Quartet and Scratch Orchestra, have performed his compositions.

Pandit Pran Nath, probably the most respected Raga vocalist, is considered his most influential teacher.

He has composed around nine quartets for the Kronos Quartet.

In UC Berkley he was a classmate of L. M. Young and David Del Tredici in a composition class.

He masters different acoustic instruments like violin, piano and saxophone.

His second album, In C, written in San Francisco, is considered a masterpiece in the musical stage of the twentieth century. This work was an interlocking of 53 different serial patterns that Riley had previously composed for this purpose. In his own words: ”In C, it’s a psychedelic cosmic opera. It should be heard as a very expansive experience”.

These are some of Riley’s most important works:

In C (1964)
Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band (1968)
A Rainbow in Curved Air (1969)
Church of Anthrax (1971)
Shri Camel (1980)
The Descending Moonshine Dervishes / The Ten Voices of the
Two Prophets Celestial Harmonies (1983)
The Harp of New Albion (1986)
Salome Dances for Peace (1989)
Chanting the Light of Foresight, (1994)
Sun Rings (2003)

“I feel that music is a way to separate our selves from the material world. Listening to music is a kind of prayer and it’s all you really need. It connects you with the spirit of creativity… In India it’s hard to separate them because music is still deeply rooted in religion, in devotion, and music is considered a religious path… There’s all kinds of music and all kinds of ways to listen to it, but essentially, music is something of the spirit.”

River on Riley’s sounds:

Because of his deep-sonoric mandalas and his geometric electromantras, the river sounds on Mr. Terry Riley.

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One Response to “Profile: Terry Riley”

  1. Calanthiaex Says:

    Interesting post!, man

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