Sunday, April 26, 2015
The Sunday Series: Sunday April 26, 2015
Sunday April 26, 2015
"Reed Steams" by Terry Riley
I just wanted to travel as far as I can, but without luggage or even a toothbrush. It is one of the key reasons why I love music so much, because it takes me far, yet, I can travel lightly. I woke up in the afternoon hearing a female voice saying "wake-up Tosh." She said it only once, and it was a voice that I wasn't familiar with. I tried to imagine the voice of the body, and my educated guess (because I have been around the block, if you get my drift) is that she is a beauty. Alas, she did not exist and perhaps she never did. Yet, I did what the voice said, and I was lifted from the living room couch to wander the inner world of yours truly.
Today being Sunday, I downloaded an album by Terry Riley called "Reed Steams." It's early work and recordings by the so-called minimalist, which personally I find that term very short-sighted. Riley to me strikes me as a maximalist. I hear everything in the world within the grooves of his music. There is a piece here called "In C (Mantra) that reminds me very much of the Rolling Stones "Sing This All Together." Only in parts, and I actually think the Stones came first - but this is not a rip-off, but merely a reflection of one's other work. Compared to other Riley works, this is very much a 'rock' piece. It builds and builds, and I suspect that the method is by Riley, using tape machines, looping instruments as they play. So in that sense, he's Eno before Eno was doing this type of work. On one level it sounds like a jam, but the fact is there is something compositional about the work. I think the more you listen to this piece, the more melodies one gets. Textured like a multi-layered cake, each taste brings a new sensation or flavor. It's a wonderful way to wake-up in the late afternoon -surely the woman who awakened me was thinking of this specific recording.
The only frustration I have with this album is that I downloaded it from I-Tunes. What I miss is the liner notes, the packaging from Tom Recchion, and as an object to hold. I do not think that this music was ever released on vinyl, only CD. Nevertheless I can play it anytime I want to - but I believe that it is the property of Apple computer and their side-business, I-Tunes. There are so many ways to listen to music these days, but the best is when it is on vinyl, and you have to force yourself to get up and turn the record over. That is a part of the process of listening to music. I-tunes, streaming - that is art without any effort - and it seems that our culture is very much doing serious stuff without effort.
Drone bombings are a perfect example of doing war, but not being involved. The Vietnam war and before, one had to take part in the battle or war. You couldn't really ignore it, due to the issue of getting drafted. Now that the draft is gone, the army is basically either poor people, or those who are waiting to obtain a green card. Then the government hires thugs to handle security for the troops and so forth. At the moment, we have been in a state of war since 9/11, and yet, as citizens we really don't have to worry about being in battle. We are authorized to fear the threat of being attacked, but in most cases, it is what it is - fear.
So I approached the music of Terry Riley with a certain amount of fear - perhaps being bored, or wasting my precious time. Once you get past that fear of not understanding or boredom, your brain really opens up to something new and wonderful. Terry Riley is such a force, where I now feel kind of bad that I haven't paid serious attention to his work. I know some of his later recordings - "In C" and so forth, but totally missed out on his early works
"Untitled Organ" has no beginning, no middle and no end. The recording of this piece is about 20 minutes. On the other hand, there are shifts, which remind me of two people having a long conversation, where the other is listening to the other participant. The tempo accelerates, as if one is getting emotional. Then a second voice kicks in, as the other sort of drifts off in an echo. At times, I forget that this is an organ. It also sounds like a saxophone. The sensitivity of the different pitches brings out a unique sound. The intensity of this piece never wavers.
"Reed Streams" is an organ and saxophone. Or is it just saxophone? The beauty of all three piece on this album is where one sense of reality disappears into something quite different. For 15 minutes, "Reed Streams" throws me into a timeless state of mind, and I can almost imagine the "girl" coming back to me. Alas, it was only a dream, but I dream with a certain amount of passion and hopefully, with skill as well.