Overview

Unquestionably the founding work of minimalism in musical composition, Terry Riley's In C (1964) challenges the standards of imagination, intellect, and musical ingenuity to which "classical" music is held. Only one page of score in length, it contains neither specified instrumentation nor parts. Its fifty-three motives are compact, presented without any counterpoint or evident form. The composer gave only spare instructions and no tempo. And he assigned the work a title that's laconic in the extreme. At the same...
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Terry Riley's In C

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Overview

Unquestionably the founding work of minimalism in musical composition, Terry Riley's In C (1964) challenges the standards of imagination, intellect, and musical ingenuity to which "classical" music is held. Only one page of score in length, it contains neither specified instrumentation nor parts. Its fifty-three motives are compact, presented without any counterpoint or evident form. The composer gave only spare instructions and no tempo. And he assigned the work a title that's laconic in the extreme. At the same moment of its composition, Elliott Carter was working on his Concerto for Piano, a work Stravinsky was to hail as a masterpiece. Having almost completed Laborinthus II, Luciano Berio would soon start the Sinfonia. Karlheinz Stockhausen had just finished Momente. In context of these other works, and of the myriad of compositional styles and trends which preceded them, In C stands the whole idea of musical "progress" on its head.

Forty years later, In C continues to receive regular performances every year by professionals, students, and amateurs, and has had numerous recordings since its 1968 LP premiere. Welcoming performers from a vast range of practices and traditions, from classical to rock to jazz to non-Western, these recordings range from the Chinese Film Orchestra of Shanghai -- on traditional Chinese instruments -- to the Hungarian 'European Music Project' group, joined by two electronica DJs manipulating the Pulse. In C rouses audiences while all the while projecting an inner serenity that suggests Cage's definition of music's purpose -- "to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influence."

Setting the stage for a most intriguing journey into the world of minimalism, Robert Carl's Terry Riley's In C argues that the work holds its place in the canon because of the very challenges it presents to "classical" music. He examines In C in the context of its era, its grounding in aesthetic practices and assumptions, its process of composition, presentation, recording, and dissemination. By examining the work's significance through discussion with performers, composers, theorists, and critics, Robert Carl explores how the work's emerging performance practice has influenced our very ideas of what constitutes art music in the 21st century.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Offer[s] performer and listener alike an eminently readable resource to better understand the significance of this work. Professor Carl assumes the dual role of faithful scribe to its oral history and scrutinizing theorist. When his task involves historical investigation and fact-finding, he is nonpareil... a book all conscientious performers will want to turn to when looking for a manual on the work's performance practice...A fine achievement." —American Record Guide

"A useful introductory volume, valuable to students and scholars for its wealth of uncomplicated analytical information and historical documentation." —Notes

"In C is a staggeringly important composition in the history of classical music and Robert Carl's writings on the piece are incredibly thorough in depth and breadth...Carl analyzes the piece through a variety of lenses and performances and discusses every major recording of the composition to date. I could not imagine a more complete exploration of this piece." —Sequenza21

"If In C needed any justification beyond its joyously jangling momentum, Robert Carl has provided it with a detailed legal brief to prove forever its intelligent inner logic and connection to multiple world musical traditions. The defense rests."-Kyle Gann, author of The Music of Conlon Nancarrow and American Music in the Twentieth Century

"Robert Carl was the right choice to write this book. Through a blend of scholarly research, professional connections and composerly musings, Carl brings the genesis of In C to life, while simultaneously opening the door for future manifestations of this mid-century masterpiece."—Lawrence Dillon, Composer in Residence, University of North Carolina School of the Arts

"For many In C is the revolutionary classical composition of the second half of the twentieth century; Robert Carl's book, which like the work perfectly balances academic discipline and popular appeal, provides an ideal companion."-Robert Morgan, Yale University

"Ambitious, elegantly written... His treatise is a labor of love: the result of prodigious effort and wholehearted veneration...We should hope for this book's success and for others like it to follow." —-New Music Connoisseur

"Readers of this journal will know Robert Carl as a generous and expert guide to contemporary music. Indeed, it is hard not to share his delight in discovering new aspects of In C...To judge by this book, he must also be a terrific teacher. Without the slightest talking down to his reader, he is clear, specific, and passionate about the important moments of this piece and how we can approach them... If you have been challenged by In C, this book will go a long way to helping you meet that challenge." —Fanfare

"Terry Riley's In C is a book that all musicians, music scholars, and music students should read." —Music & Letters

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Robert Carl is Professor of Composition and Theory and Chair of Composition, Department of Music, The Hartt School, University of Hartford. His music has been performed throughout the United States and Europe and has been published by American composers' Edition, Boosey & Hawkes, and Apollo-Edition. Recent CD releases of works are found on New World, Innova, Neuma, Koch International, Lotus, Centaur, and Vienna Modern Masters. He also writes regularly on new music for Fanfare Magazine.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
1. Introduction
2. Terry Riley's Life and Art Before In C
3. The Premiere
4. Analysis
5. The Columbia Recording, a "Second Premiere"
6. Legacy
Appendix: Recordings of In C, 1970-2007, with Analysis
Notes
Selected Bibliography

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