cover Cover Stories Latest live music Music This Week's Issue

New Music Trailblazer Terry Riley Gets Santa Cruz Concert

New Music Works





E mail

Should you’ve heard the intro to the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” you’ve heard the affect of Terry Riley.

Within the wake of his genius with tape loops and interlocking repetitions got here Philip Glass, Brian Eno, Riley’s many commissions for the Kronos Quartet, and inevitably, numerous rock suggestions loop knockoffs. In contrast to Glass, whose minimalism explores process-based abstraction, Riley pushed onward, interweaving digital cycles and jazz tropes with critical engagement in world music, notably the hypnotic rhythms and melodic improvisations of Indian raga. As creative as Bach and audacious as Miles Davis, the California-born new music guru has soared into the mystic ever since.

Riley shredded the musical established order with In C in 1964. Loosely managed improv met jazz swing in Tread on the Path (1965). After finishing an MFA in Composition at Berkeley, Riley headed for the jazz golf equipment of Paris, the place he performed piano for lease cash with greats like Chet Baker. Reworked by psychedelics, his musical quest went supernova with the much-adored A Rainbow in Curved Air (1969), with its droning organ and effervescent melodic patterns that outlined the way forward for layered electronica. All of the sudden there have been no boundaries, both to what his era needed to listen to or what he was prepared to find.

Now, the world grasp of the stressed arpeggio will deliver his voice, keyboards and sense of marvel to Santa Cruz on Feb. 2 for a plunge into digital invention. The headliner for the subsequent New Music Works 40th season live performance, Riley, now 83, will be a part of the NMW ensemble for a live performance devoted virtually totally to his music.

Riley’s efficiency will show his lengthy immersion in Indian classical music and why, as new music aficionado Sarah Cahill places it, “the classical music establishment has never known what to do with his music, and how freely he moves between Indian raga, jazz, minimalism, ragtime, and other genres.” The live performance will conclude with a NMW ensemble efficiency of Riley’s Tread on the Path, one in every of his improvisationally daring and most generally interpreted items, through which his jazz origins break open new territory.

“The object is to free yourself of all set composition,” Riley informed me in a current telephone interview. “That takes the aliveness out of the music. The point is to surprise yourself as you go.”

‘Trail’ Blazing

Tread On the Path was born after Riley heard a live performance with the tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins in San Francisco. “It was an interesting night,” Riley has stated, “because he just sat up on the stage, and he would start improvising something with his horn, and he would kind of glance at the musicians and expect them to interact with the music he was playing.” Riley then concocted his jazzy canon of six repeated strains for a San Francisco State College band he performed with.

The model he’ll carry out in Santa Cruz will embrace flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone, violin, cello, double bass, piano, vibraphone, drum set, electrical guitar, and acoustic guitar. Tread‘s title web page reads, “For any number of instruments.” NMW’s association has by no means been heard earlier than.

New Music Works

DARE TO ‘TREAD’ Bassist Stan Poplin (left) and New Music Works director Phil Collins have re-imagined Riley’s basic 1965 composition ‘Tread on the Trail’ for the Feb. 2 NMW occasion. PHOTO: JULES HOLDSWORTH

As together with his tradition-shattering In C, Tread invokes world music influences in addition to intuitive collaboration among the many musicians, who’re free to barter period and repetition of the piece’s six strains of notation. Every time this piece is performed, it’s refreshed by means of the tempo, placement and instincts of the performers. Overlapping improvisations add depth and playfulness to a bit that’s free to discover inside the composer’s very unfastened parameters. Calmly structured freedom of type is Riley’s signature. Compelling depth is the end result.

The rating itself is fascinating. A single web page of musical notation, six strains of 12 bars, plus one pivot bar. Every line is a palindrome—at bar six, the sequence of notes reverses itself. The efficiency notes Riley offers encourage variation and play. “The six lines may be performed in a variety of ways,” the composer suggests. Musicians might play every line many occasions, enter and exit at any level—certainly, Riley’s notes specify, “any performer can decide at any time whether to play the line or the drone part that goes with the line.” Any variety of musicians could also be concerned, and whereas Riley means that a super efficiency might final 10-12 minutes, “longer and shorter performances can also be considered.”

Participant’s Perspective

“There’s lots of freedom in Riley’s work,” says Stan Poplin, the double bass artist who will carry out in Tread. “But freedom that requires far more boundaries.” NMW director Phil Collins proposed the thought to Poplin, who then discovered Klub Katarakt”s model on the Web. “That gave me some direction,” he says. “But then I saw the music and that changed everything.”

Poplin started forming a imaginative and prescient of how the piece could be carried out, and can work on the “proper jazz feel,” because of Riley’s directions for a swinging 1/16. (In lay phrases, the 1/16 word is performed in slight syncopation forward of the beat. Primarily, the sensation of music being “swung” is what makes jazz sound like jazz). As soon as that’s established, “We can work on a plan to present the material and how we will work through it,” Poplin says.

Poplin’s strategy to the music is to “go through it very slowly, learn the notes and figure out the fingering.” After many years as knowledgeable musician, Poplin is snug improvising.

“I find this kind of music exciting,” he says. “It’s the excitement of not knowing exactly what will happen, combined with the freedom to move in unexpected directions that makes this music particularly interesting to me.” Poplin, who leads UCSC’s jazz ensemble, additionally performs with Nicole Paiement’s Opera Parallele performing classical music that’s absolutely composed. “The result of that kind of musical setting is very much shaped by the composer’s intention,” he says. “Tread offers a different result—the excitement of the unknown and an opportunity to be freely playful in the process.”

Poplin will act as what he calls the “traffic conductor” of the ensemble through the efficiency. “The tempo is easy to show,” he says, demonstrating for me by respiration and elevating his head as if indicating the beginning of the efficiency. “Then we could go into different grooves, like Latin, more jazz, or straight interpretation.”

Poplin, a 40-year NMW veteran, has labored with all of the gamers who will probably be concerned on this efficiency. Three rehearsals are deliberate, plus conferences with NMW director Collins, mapping out methods to discover and interpret the piece. “I want the audience to feel that what we’ve done is not simply to indulge ourselves as performers,” says Poplin. “But to present it in a way that widens their ears and hopefully they’ll enjoy. A small town like Santa Cruz supporting new music for all these years. That’s incredible.”

The Lengthy Imaginative and prescient

Collins—composer, conductor, guitarist, and world music educator—based New Music Works 40 years in the past, and has since labored with avant-garde pioneers like Lou Harrison, Aaron Jay Kernis, Pauline Oliveros, Philip Glass, Sarah Cahill, and Larry Polansky. A protege of Harrison’s, Collins had met Riley a number of time at his mentor’s property. After Riley despatched a donation for NMW’s 39th season profit, Collins determined to make contact. “He’s part of the California experimental tradition, and after some negotiation he agreed to come,” says Collins.

Riley and Collins share world music pursuits. “Improv is at the basis of classical Indian music—that’s what you hear in his music,” Collins believes. “When he performs, as we’ll hear, he lets himself go where the material takes him. Fearless.”

In a current observe to Collins, Riley recommended, “As far as Tread on the Trail goes, the one piece of advice I would offer is for the group to try to coalesce into a unison occasionally after treating the lines canonically. I don’t want to say too much because part of the fun is for the players to get creative and have fun with the chart and I love to be surprised by the solutions different groups come up with.”

DIFFERENT BEAT From Paris to India, a young Terry Riley collected musical influences from around the world. PHOTO: BETTY FREEMAN

DIFFERENT BEAT From Paris to India, a younger Terry Riley collected musical influences from all over the world. PHOTO: BETTY FREEMAN

A efficiency word like this can be a musician’s dream—a number of tips, after which permission to get artistic.

“As musicians, we look forward to seeing how it manifests,” says Collins. “After each line is introduced, the players are encouraged to experiment canonically, which makes everyone’s different points of entries sound wonderfully unexpected and off-kilter.”

Collins calls Tread for the Path “a fascinating piece to address. It’s the most jazz vernacular I’ve encountered in Terry’s music, and a unique rhythmic application of repetitive cell improvisations,” says the NMW director, who will play amplified acoustic guitar on this piece. “Like In C, everyone plays from the same single sheet of music, six lines across an 11×17 sheet. We enter a new neighborhood on each line. We’ll begin by working through each line several times in unison, and then it starts to tweak away.”

Riley is “a perfect fit for Santa Cruz,” says Collins. “He erases all boundaries, both within his musical works and in terms of his openness to musical traditions. He started with rock ’n’ roll and jazz roots—he seemed to come to the table somehow already ready.”

Swing Shift

Requested about his personal performances, touring everywhere in the world from his residence base within the Bay Space, Riley laughs. “I’m old now, and every day is a gift. Taking chances is easy—I have nothing to lose.” Riley’s mystique amongst skilled musicians is constructed upon his sheer efficiency braveness. Armed with a cross-cultural lifetime of virtuosity and favored tropes, the experimental grasp tends to strategy the keyboard with solely a sketch of a map. He’s prepared to lean approach out on the sting and see what exhibits up. “Improvisation means you’re willing to crash and mess up in public. Putting yourself out there, that’s where the great moments are.”

Of the repetitive buildings that ripple by means of his work—“a path toward ecstasy,” as he calls it— Riley says, “It happened accidentally. I was living in Southern Spain and I went to Morocco, where the repeated musical cycles to achieve an altered state were an old tradition.”

Touring onto India, the place he ultimately lived for a number of years, Riley discovered that, “Repetitive principles were millennia old. So I studied there, and now I do Indian classical vocal music as a daily practice.”

Requested whether or not he made music for the performer or for the listener, Riley responds: “The performer is also a listener. They make decisions according to their ears, not a set of notes on the page. I’ve tried to get further away from a written score. But,” he says with a wry chuckle, “I find that musicians need some architecture.”

Today, Riley says he lives with music day in and day trip. “Indian classical vocal music, which I practice daily, hones your senses. Almost all guided spontaneity taps into the free-floating universe of music out there,” he says.

He typically performs together with his guitarist son Gyan, however Riley says he not composes. “It’s much more real to have my existing music performed over and over. I keep hearing new aspects each time. I work on improvisation daily, to keep sharp, like sparring with a partner. I practice every day as if it’s for a performance.”

For the brand new music innovator, each live performance is a singular expertise. “I like what happens with each interpretation,” Riley says.  “I like to see it from the now, from fast to slow, the colors and shapes that emerge.”

He refuses to be labeled a conceptualist or a minimalist. “That’s not me,” he says. Riley’s additionally happy that audiences discover emotional and expressive content material in his work. “There’s no way to pin down a composing style. Everything is a hybrid now because of availability of recorded music and the internet.”

Spontaneity defines his solo piano items. “Playing a concert is always affected by where I am, and how it feels that day. What the crowd is like. I like to keep it open.” He says he makes use of, “the known and familiar to launch into unfamiliar territories. I am happiest as a performer when surprising directions in the musical flow occur that allow me to see and hear things from an unexpected angle.”


An Night with Terry Riley and New Music Works

Saturday, Feb. 2. Peace United Church of Christ, 900 Excessive St., Santa Cruz.

Pre-concert speak with Terry Riley 6-6:45 p.m., live performance 7:30 p.m.

This system consists of Riley’s works for piano 4 arms, Waltz for Charismas (2003, commissioned by pianist Sarah Cahill) and Jaztine (2000), in addition to Terry Riley in  Efficiency, voice, keyboard. Eighteen-year-old Alice Jen makes her debut with Sarah Cahill, premiering Phil Collins’ going locations (2018). To honor Frederic Rzewski’s 80th birthday, To the Earth (1985) shall be carried out by percussionist Henry Wilson. Tread on the Path (1965) shall be carried out by an 11-member ensemble of NMW all-stars.

Preview this piece on Saturday, Jan. 19th, when Stan Poplin and Cary Nichols will play a model of Tread on the Path at R. Blitzer Gallery. 6-Eight p.m.

Screen shot 2016-07-05 at 3.46.06 PM

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised everywhere in the world (because of an Air Pressure dad), with real-world coaching in portray, music, winetasting, path operating, natural gardening, and educating. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches within the Arts at UCSC and sings with the united states Concert Choir. Search for her current memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores in all places.

About the author