When I was a Music Theory & Composition major at De Paul University, it was my joy to discover and consume the most esoteric music I could find. One vinyl LP in my collection was “Rainbow in Curved Air” by composer Terry Riley, whose music – to me – captured the exotic, meditative beauty of the Balinese gamelan. Through experimentation with tape loops, he was inventing a new musical style that today we call Minimalism and we associate with this style’s most famous proponent, Philip Glass.
Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of re-visiting the music of Terry Riley at an exquisite outdoor performance at the Armand Hammer Museum in Westwood, Los Angeles. Riley’s 1968 piece “In C” was performed in the museum courtyard on a perfectly temperate Southern California day, accompanied by a chorus of singers, dancers, and billowing inflated 2-story figures and color fabric tubes for a marathon 4 HOURS! The original piano tape loop (I suspect digitized today) never stopped playing, though singers came and went, instrumentation switched, and musicians took breaks.
It was a fantastic example of participatory art, where the spectators milling about became part of the performance, many shooting photos or video, children interacted with the wind-fueled figures, and dancers emerged from the crowd or – ending their formal movements – quietly blended back into the audience.
And IMHO, it was also a fine example of a sacred ritual, demonstrating the transcendant power of music to unify all within range into a delicious Oneness, entrancing and entraining our hearts to beat as one to the pulsing piano or xylophone motifs, uplifting our personal frequency / vibration, being transformed by the exquisite beauty of the sounds and movements, and moved by the performers’ disciplined dedication to our most satisfying experience.