I’ve just finished reading my advance copy* of Robert Carl’s forthcoming book “Terry Riley’s In C.

Carl set himself the task of approaching this pivotal 1960s work from every possible angle. To that end, he has divided his study into five sections:

  • Terry Riley’s Life and Art Before In C
  • The Premiere
  • Analysis
  • The Columbia Recording, a “Second Premiere”
  • Legacy
There is also an appendix, analyzing fourteen recordings of the piece made between 1970 and 2007.

The book has a lot to recommend it. Carl brings his many areas of expertise to bear – scholarly research, theoretical analysis, composerly musings – to capture the essence of In C in its many manifestations. But his most valuable contribution, to my mind, comes from his interviews with people involved in the 1964 premiere and the 1968 recording. The list of interviewees is a walk down a certain kind of 1960s Hall of Fame: Terry Riley (of course), Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Ramon Sender, Anna Halprin, Bill McGinnis, Anthony Martin, Morton Subotnick, David Behrman, Stuart Dempster, Katrina Krimsky, David Rosenboom, Jan Williams, and more. Their recollections summon up the youthful joy of connecting with something truly new. As Carl notes in his Introduction, “I have been made far more optimistic about the future – both my own and in general – by contact with such an energetic and frisky group of septuagenarians.”

And I can particularly recommend the book as a delightful way to pass the time if you happen to find yourself standing in line for several hours waiting to vote. Something about the timelessness of experiencing In C itself, I suppose. The piece is, as Bang on a Can bassist Robert Black says, “a huge gift to the world.”

*Oxford University Press asked me to write a blurb for the book jacket – I believe the book is due out in early 2009.

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