|Dimensions||21 × 15 × 1.5 cm|
Terry Riley’s In C, one of the most influential compositions of the past quarter century, has been played by almost every conceivable combination of instruments; however, the Shanghai Film Orchestra’s version ranks as one of the most exciting and exotic interpretations. It marks the 25th anniversary of the piece, and represents the first time a Western new music piece has been recorded in China. In C is a rhythmic, energetic work, but it also echoes the mystical, embroidered music of the Near East and India. By staying in or around the key of C, this 1964 work creates a model sound that can be seen as a forerunner of today’s minimalist and world music styles. The Shanghai Film Orchestra plays this contemporary Western work on traditional Chinese instruments. The tuning is different, and the tone colors of the ancient Chinese bells and strings lend a new vibrancy to the piece. The construction of this version is equally striking. Instead of following the score straight through, earlier parts are brought back and woven into a tapestry of sound even more mesmerizing than Riley’s original recording. The talented Chinese-American composer, David Mingyue Liang, contributes two works that extend the orchestra’s range to include the ethereal sounds of bowed vibes and the haunting resonance of China’s only complete set of mangluo gongs. This remarkable recording, the result of a cultural openness in China, proves that the East and West have much to say to each other.
Terry Riley – ‘In C’
CD review by Andy Busuttil
Wild harmonics and resonances in a pentatonic scale are the first things that leap out at you when track 1 kicks off. Music played from a bed of Chinese classical music married to Western minimalism. To appreciate this CD, I think the listener would have to profoundly understand the complexities of music and its mathematical underpinnings or at least have a deep desire to do so. I fit into the latter category. When I first started listening to this CD, I have to say that I wondered what I had done to Cec Bucello to make him want to kill me by asking me for a review. To come close to enjoying this work, especially on track 1, I needed to suspend any expectation I may have had of music as an identifiable form. If you are used to melodies and rhythms in forms to which many have been accustomed in Australia and other parts of the ‘West’ and you refuse to budge from this expectation, don’t go near this CD since track 1, in particular, will appeal to you as much as a recording of a dentist’s drill. But if you are inclined to suspend judgement and allow your ears to take you into a 3-dimensional labyrinth of sound, this CD, in its entirety, is an absolute turn on. In short, this is not a CD to listen to while driving your car and certainly not in the background as you work. It is certainly not the CD for those seeking and adhering to cultural familiarity. However, this is a brilliant and fascinating CD, even more so if you start listening from tracks 2 and 3 and then move back to track 1. In that progression you will fi nd a demonstration of the smooth liquidity one moment and the extraordinary abrasiveness at another, of the interface between the West and the Far East that is China. This also gives you the opportunity to cross from more familiar terrain to that which may be alien. If you enjoy a cerebral relationship with music that crosses cultures in an extraordinary way, ‘In C’ is a must have.
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