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DesAccordes - 2005 - "Terry Riley's In C"

(49 min, Gazul)

TRACK LIST:                             

1.  Part I 4:42
2.  Part II 10:44
3.  Part III 13:20
4.  Part IV 8:29
5.  Part V 11:41

All music: by T Riley.
Arranged by Baron.
Produced by Gario.


Erik Baron - conductor; bass
Eric Rebeyrol - electric bass 
Philippe Cauvin - classical guitar 
Damien Cottet - electric guitar
Simon Pourbaix - drums
Thierry Jardinier - percussions 
Mahalia Sternicha - harp
Serge Korjanevski - cello
Morgane Sauniere - cello
Five more bass guitar players
Six more classical guitar players
Eight more electric guitar players

Prolusion. DESACCORDES is a French ensemble, which bassist and composer Eric Baron formed five years ago with the intent to perform non-typical music (hence the name, Disaccords). This rendering of Terry Riley's "In C" is their second album, following "Cordeyades" from two years ago. Legend has it that Riley composed this 49-minute composition in one sitting on one piece of paper in 1964. This is experimental music from 4 decades ago, which is said to have influenced people ranging from composer Philip Glass to The Who & Tangerine Dream. Terry Riley was at the heart of the Minimalist Movement in music. More recently he has worked with The Kronos Quartet on no less than 16 pieces.

Analysis. Imagine, if you will, the sound of a finger gliding around and around the rim of a fine crystal goblet, emitting a pitch that grows and grows with intensity out of nothing. This is the first impression of Terry Riley's "In C", as it is performed here. However, soon, that pitch begins to segment and you realize it is not a glass, but strings. The strumming, tapping, picking continues to build with more and more instruments becoming evident, fanning out from the one original tone. Deep, resonant tones of the cello (the bow drawn slowly and seamlessly) rise from the depths beneath the upper strings. At times the sounds produced resemble horns in the distance, the finely strummed guitar impersonating the mandolin. Throughout the 5 parts, the tempo continues mostly unchanged, the underlying rhythms carried out as much by stringed instruments providing a pizzicato percussion, as by the drums & traditional percussion. (It is not until the late in Part III that the drums come forward strongly and make themselves known.) The other musicians seem to be improvising within this framework, sometimes pulling forward with some variation, then easing back into the rhythms of the whole, whilst others move to the fore. By the close of Part III, the rhythm becomes nearly imperceptible, but is kept alive by the upper strings, as the basses rumble and recede like a departing thunderstorm. It is the basses themselves then that pick up the rhythm, as Part IV begins. Now the higher strings are like birds in a forest, chirruping, tweeting, warbling, calling here, answering there. This fourth movement climaxes in the second half, reaching a point of discord and competing rhythms, but still the constancy of the beat remains. Part V opens with notes that will remind those who know American TV of the theme to The Twilight Zone. By the end of Part V, the guitars, electric & acoustic close the piece sounding much like the ticking of an alarm clock, the kind my grandfather had, made of a metal body, where even the ticking had a resonance. So "In C" ends, like a metaphor of the passage of time, which perhaps was what Riley had in mind when he composed "In C", because there is a relentless nature to the beat, that at times is obvious and at times is almost forgotten, but never disappears. Through the business and activity, the interplay of all the various elements represented by the instruments, the beat drives on.

Conclusion. This is avant-garde minimalist music and it is particularly for people who understand such music that I would recommend this album. It is repetitive, yet intricate. It takes time and patience to discover the subtleties of the music, which are much more based in rhythm and tonality than in melody. Riley himself has said, "To me it's about the magic of what's in the notes themselves." Musically, "In C" is a bit like watching a fire in the hearth, where, though there is the constancy of the flames, the pattern of sparks and individual tongues of flame work in concert to form the whole, continually changing, undulating for the duration of the blaze. This is not for someone in a hurry. I do not recommend this for the casual listener or the progressive rock listener who wants to hear melodies, or rock, for that matter. It is progressive, but it is not rock. It is too esoteric to be generally accessible.

KW: Agst 9, 2005

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