There aren’t very many really revolutionary pieces of music in this century or any other. Terry Riley’s In C is one of those revolutionary pieces. It’s hard to tell how little structure there is to the music if listening to the piece with little or no background. As the music crescendos and ascends from one raga to another, you can hear how Riley’s minimalist approach allows the musician a freedom to feel the music and become one with it. Its unpredictable nature allows a certain surprise each time the listener hears the piece performed. There are so many possibilities. The Indian influence gives it its minimalistic glory. It invokes feelings a relaxation and freedom in the listener.
The notation provided for the piece serves as merely a suggestion on how it should be performed. 53 melodic patterns are displayed on the one page, with any number of performers playing each pattern ...view middle of the document...
Most notable though is the lack of a definitive time signature, which Riley clearly saw necessary to avoid in order capturing the true essence of the piece, allowing it to grow and change however the players see fit.
I think that this unique form of composition makes this piece on of a kind. It gives a freedom to musicians and conductors to enjoy a piece of music and get lost in its melody. It has such a simple premise that promotes so much creativity.
Another unique feature allows for different instruments. You can use any combination and how ever many you choose. You can make the music soft, quite, and relaxing or you can play it hard and loud. The piece can last anywhere from about 20 minutes to up to several hours.
Traditionally, music pieces have a certain structure. The way the piece is composed dictates what title it is given, such as a concerto or an overture. This piece lacks any sort of formal structure. There are no discerning movements. Musicians in a classical setting are not often given the freedom to feel the music, which is what this piece does. More often, the musician must strictly follow the notation on the page, crescendo, pause, count, etc. This piece breaks tradition. The score is a simple one page, simply to guide the musicians on their journey, not dictate it.
The Indian influence is clear. The minimalist approach he takes clearly pays homage to the simplistic and naturalistic nature of the Indian culture. The rhythms are coordinated but simple. The flow feels natural and you could easily close your eyes and envision nature around you.
Compared to some of the other pieces we listened to, I felt this one speak to me the most. The simple sound relaxes the listeners. It creates a very peaceful and serene environment. At the same time, it’s exciting to listen and imagine what could come next. There are so many possibilities and no single performance could ever be the same. To me, Terry Riley’s In C in an incredibly unique piece of music that the world may never see the likes of again.