The LA Times has a review of seminal minimalist composer Terry Riley‘s Sunday performance at the Walt Disney concert hall.
“Minimalist” is a strange tag for Riley. It suits him in that he has never lost his love for interlocking repetitive figures imbued with the strength to send the brain into psychedelic reverie. But Riley is really a musical accumulator.
Years of study in India have made him a master of raga, played on the keyboard and sung. A virtuosic pianist and inspired improviser, he began as a jazz player and, at 72, remains a brilliant jazz player. Hardly remaining in or anywhere near C, he roams through modes and microtones continually enriching his harmonic palate. Melodically and rhythmically he flows naturally between East and West, ancient times, recent music history and the present.
For the first half of his program, Riley revised two classic pieces, first updating Persian Surgery Dervishes, a study in whirling repetitions for electric keyboard and tape delay. (A famous performance of that was given and recorded in Los Angeles in 1971).
Sunday’s new A Persian Surgery Dervish in the Nursery made his performance on the old electronic technology seem downright primitive. On Disney’s instrument, Riley achieved a sense of awe-inspiring vastness with thick church-like diapason textures. For an arrangement of a few themes from his epic 1985 string quartet, Salome Dances for Peace, Riley began with spellbinding rumbling of low notes and then traced trilling fanciful melodies, at one point adding raga-like vocalization.
My expectations for Sunday’s concert were impossibly high. They were exceeded.
Most fans of electronic music are aware of Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and on the influence they have had on electronic musicians.
You can’t understand minimalism, though, without listening to some of the 60’s work of La Monte Young and Terry Riley, two living classical composers whose influence is immeasurable.