Music Is a Continuum
"Music is the evolvement of the human spirit with sounds".
Meet the pioneering composer Terry Riley whose minimalistic and hypnotic works have inspired musicians and composers for decades. We visited him in his new home in Japan. Read more …
Terry Riley was born in California in 1935, and his first memory of music was at the age of three, a song called “South of The Border (Down Mexico Way)”. “It was such an emotional shock to my system,” he recalls. “It stayed with me throughout my life: This is what music can do and how deeply it can affect you, maybe as deep as any experience you can have in life.”
Terry Riley has walked a unique way in composing. “I have a hard time with musical categories. I am called a minimalist, and what the hell does that mean? That I only brush my teeth once a week? I think there are only two kinds of music, good and bad,” Riley says.
“When I compose, I don’t plan things like an architect drawing everything out and then filling in the dots. Instead, I work like a sculptor putting a little here and a little there and then seeing where it is going to go, so I kind of work in a plastic way, actually a pragmatic way,” Riley explains.
“For me, music is a continuum, and beginnings and endings aren’t that important because you are just tuning into a sound turn. You get people onto a train, and let them off. There is no final ending like Beethoven with a big cadence, and I don’t do that”.
Even at a high age, Riley still performs on stage. “I definitely like to be performing as long as I am able to because to me, a lot of ideas are created: The fire of the stage always brings new material. The intensity and the way you have to be when you are improvising on stage invite new things in because you are taking chances. Performing is a good way to keep in shape, it is like a boxer, if you don’t fight and go out once in a while, you are going to be knocked out”.
Terry Riley (b. 1935) is an American composer and performing musician. He is a pioneer of the minimalist school of composition, which was launched by his composition ‘In C’ (1964), which is today considered a classic. In 1969 Riley released ‘A Rainbow in Curved Air’, also considered a landmark of minimalism. Riley has composed numerous works, and he has inspired composers such as Phillip Glass and Steve Reich and influenced experimental music, rock, and contemporary electronic music. Riley’s collaborators include the Kronos Quartet and John Zorn. London Sunday Times listed Terry Riley as “one of the 1000 makers of the 20th Century.”
Terry Riley was interviewed by Jens H. Jensen in Yamanashi, Japan in June 2022.
Cameras: Yudai Maruyama
Edit: Signe Boe Pedersen
Produced by Christian Lund & Signe Boe Pedersen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.
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