Foible’s Fables Part 1 – Pattern 35

I love the word “foibles.” I have spent alot of time excavating and sitting with my own foibles. This is work made difficult by the thinking mind. Take for example, Pattern 35. I have already written about this pattern as it is so unusual in the great scheme of “In C.” And now a mystery has arisen around Pattern 35. Here’s what happened.

Last week I was reading Robert Carl’s extensive analysis of the text of “In C,” when I was brought to a halt by a table labeled “Duration of Modules.” The durations were quarter note values and Pattern 35 was listed as 30 beats in length, which would be 60 eighth note pulses. Wait a minute! I have been counting this pattern as 64 pulses in all that I have been doing. I looked at my score and counted through the phrase several times always coming up with 64 pulses. Robert Carl’s book Terry Riley’s In C contains a score as well. In comparison, the scores are different on Pattern 35. My score ends the pattern on a dotted whole note and Mr. Carl’s score has no such dot! That would account for exactly 4 pulses.

Well, my first thought was “which one is right?” But then I was gently reminded that I don’t live in the righteous world anymore, so THAT is not the question I want to ask. There! — I countered my first foible of the thinking mind. The extreme limitation of righteous thought creates complexity and “issues” out of rigid beliefs. For me, righteousness is much ado about nada. So let’s move on to the more interesting question- “what impact does the presence or absence of these four pulses in this pattern have on the larger work?”

Carl points out that Riley’s attention to the progression of rhythmic and harmonic content reveal a strong compositional sensibility, which may give guidance as to how to analyze this situation. My first thought is to look at the pattern durations that surround Pattern 35 to see if they sync better with 64 or 60 pulses. The four patterns before Pattern 35 are 3 pulses, 12 pulses, 2 pulses and 1 pulse in duration. The four patterns following are 3 pulses, 1 pulse, 1.5 pulses and 3 pulses in duration.

I am looking for a mathematical relationship amongst these durations that might suggest a more stable meshing of the parts when performed. I feel that Pattern 38 (1.5 pulses) is a subdominant rhythmic figure to Pattern 39 (3 pulses.) So, if Pattern 39 is synced, Pattern 38 will follow. Now we will take the remaining phrase lengths – 1, 2, 3, 12 – and see if a divisibility factor relationship exists amongst these patterns AND with 60 and 64. All factors are divisible by the lowest denominator 1. Next comes 2. While 2 doesn’t divide evenly into 3, the 6 feel that comes from looping the 3 IS divisible by 2, as are 12, 60 and 64. The next denominator – 3 – may shed some light here. Three will divide evenly into 12 and 60, but not 64. The divisibility factor relationship favors 60 pulses as a length for Pattern 35. This suggests that a 60 pulse Pattern 35 might ride a touch more steadily amongst the surrounding patterns.

Another compositional factor is the feel of movements of eight, which is the usual framework for the improvising musician. Phrase lengths run 8, 16, 24 on up to… 64. So a 64 pulse would make it easier for live musicians to get a feel for the movement of this longer line. Carl points out that Pattern 35 “combines almost every different rhythmic duration of the whole piece into a single melodic gesture.” So get this pattern down and you have a feel for all the others. A 64 pulse phrase would likely be easier for muscians to internalize and play against then a 60 pulse phrase.

So there is some reason to choose each of these durational increments. I decided to go to the source- Mr. Riley himself. I have had a few email correspondences with him during the course of this project, and he has always replied, which he did saying he favored the 64 pulse version. He mentioned that there are many hand notated copies around that contain “errors” or, as I like to call them, deviations from the score that Mr. Riley intended. It is to his credit that he allows this looser structure and holds more lightly the notated score.

As for myself, since I am experimenting with this piece, I will try both phrase lengths.

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