Today has been an exciting day with many energetic boosts along the way. This morning, I started researching first person accounts of the 1964 premiere of “In C.” (I would love to get my eyes on a copy of Alfred Frankenstein’s review whose famous headline, “Music Like None Other on Earth,” is oft quoted in writings about “In C.”) I did come across one first person account from Leah Garchik’s column in SF Chronicle, May, 2009:
— One last thing about “In C”: Harpsichordist Margaret Fabrizio, who used to be on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, reports that it was raining during the premiere performance of Terry Riley’s piece, and the roof of the old building leaked. “About 10 minutes into the piece, I had the distinct feeling that I was in a tropical rain forest. Seconds later, an umbrella went up. Then more, until the hall was filled with people sitting under their umbrellas. Unforgettable.”
I would think humidity would really add to the overwhelment people must have felt on that first hearing. I love this evocative recollection. And then there is the suggestion that Leah Garchik wrote more about “In C” in previous columns, so that lead needs to be followed up on.
And now, two days later, can YOU say, ‘Ask and it is given?’ I have in my possession the compete text of Alfred Frankenstein’s review of the program in which ‘In C’ premiered. I am ecstatic to this moment with this find. More on that later. Just noticing and appreciating the manifest.
Another ecstatic root of the moment is the first ‘In C’ attunement with Xopher Thurston and Susanne Romey on April 2. They were the perfect folks for this my first encounter with musicians who will play the score in real time on an instrument. This piece is a workout for musicians and instruments. Xopher and Susanne jumped right in as we played through the first seven patterns. I like to aim for Pattern 7 because it is an aural resting point and a wonderful illustration of accumulating lag in the piece. However, it is not a resting place for musicians because all the rests demand to be counted.
So we discussed how to count this pattern. In Ableton, the pattern is a loop, so I suggested that once you have counted in the first group of rests and played the 3 quick Cs, you could simply count 16 beats between interations. Xopher pointed out that counting in that way undermines the form of the phrase by placing the iterations on the one. In which case, why not just write the phrase as the three notes and 16 pulses of rest? Excellent point to ponder. Do these two different forms create two different feelings of Pattern 7, and, if so, is one more “correct” than the other?
One of the things I learned from this attunement is that we can collect questions like this and play with them. So as more players attend an attunement, we can get more voices in the conversation and use this interaction to explore them. For this reason, I have decided to schedule several attunements a month during this year. This will allow a community of musicians to engage with this experience however they want and take something from it and give something back. And all that is required is presence and openness and willingness to go where ‘In C’ takes us.
On a basic level, playing “In C” is a really fun way to practice riffs, runs, appeggios and modulations. So, if nothing else, playing this piece will sharpen all of our chops! Another thing I learned from the attunement is that I need to engage with this piece with my instrument, so I am working on vocalizing the patterns. This will help me in communicating with the instrument players and in being more sensitive to the challenges this piece presents.
Finally, do not forget April 15th @8 pm – Motorco Music Hall.