Minimalist composer Terry Riley premiered his work 'In C' in 1964, a big influence on minimalism in contemporary composition and on subsequent works by composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and John Adams. 1967’s 'A Rainbow In Curved Air' and its companion piece 'Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band' – both mixing repetition, electronics and tape-manipulation – were often performed in marathon, trance-inducing performances, and Riley was regarded a cult musician in avantgarde rock music circles. This 2-CD set presents two radio sessions recorded 1975 in Cologne, newly remastered from the original tapes for optimal sound.
After Terry Riley's revolutionary In C, it certainly never seemed that the compositionally brash cofounder of the minimalist movement would take on a lyrical bent. But that's what he's done on this collection of pieces for violin, guitar, and percussion. Violinist Tracy Silverman and guitarist David Tanenbaum play warmly and sublimely on Cantos Desiertos, finding pristine melodies and high, arching curves around which to spread their finesse. Tanenbaum gets unbelievably rich tones from his guitar, and his range is the one consistent ingredient throughout these pieces. He duets with Riley's son Gyan, himself an accomplished guitarist, on "Zamorra" and with percussionist William Winant on Dias de los Muertos. Winant's marimba and gongs are especially appropriate for Tanenbaum's resonant string work, fluctuating from an absolute crispness to a milky froth. Where Riley's chamber works, such as Salome Dances for Peace, are intensely rhythmic, these works veer much more stealthily toward a kind of glorious flowering, even if the blooms are in dusky colors and muted, curvy patterns.
This may be the single most powerful piece of music that the Kronos Quartet has ever recorded, and perhaps that Terry Riley has ever written. This is because Requiem for Adam is so personal, so direct, and experiential. Requiem for Adam was written after the death of Kronos violinist David Harrignton's son. He died, in 1995, at the age of 16, from an aneurysm in his coronary artery. Riley, who is very close to the Harringtons and has a son the same age, has delved deep into the experience of death and resurrection, or, at the very least, transmutation. Requiem for Adam is written in three parts, or movements. The first, "Ascending the Heaven Ladder," is based on a four-note pattern that re-harmonizes itself as it moves up the scale. There are many variations and series based on each of these notes and their changing harmonics, and finally a 5/4 dance as it moves to the highest point on the strings. The drone-like effect is stunning when the listener realizes that the drone is changing shape too, ascending the scale, moving ever upward and taking part in the transmutation of harmony.