Terry Riley’s Voices In C

Paul Hillier gives us an interesting new take on a musical icon of the 1960’s. Acclaimed as a choral director Hillier is also author of books on minimalist composers Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt, and lives in Copenhagen. With these credentials a vocal take on Terry Riley’s minimalist classic In C with Danish forces makes a lot of sense. A vocal version was first discussed with the composer in the mid 1990s, and Riley annotated a score with ‘sacred syllables’ for the singers to use. It has taken ten years for the project to come to fruition, but the wait was well worth it.

The new recording of In C has been made by Paul Hillier (below) with the twelve-strong early and contemporary vocal goup Ars Nova Copenhagen and the Percurama Percussion Ensemble, and it is a sign of the times that this outstanding new release is on Ars Nova’s own record label. In this vocal version the pulse normally played as a High C on a piano is played by a single marimba, with support from seven other marimbas (one bass), and a vibraphone and Bali gong, with both vocal and percussion parts undergoing polyphonic tranformations. This new take on In C is composer authorised and works beautifully by adding new textures to the original. The percussion parts are difficult enough to play, yet the Ars Nova ensemble deliver the vocal lines with an accuracy that is quite breathtaking.

This is timeless music in more ways than one. The designer of the appealing Bridget Riley influenced sleeve had the bright idea of including old photographs of all the performers in 1964, the year that Terry Riley composed his masterpiece. But such is the youth (and talent) of the performers that many couldn’t supply photographs – simply because they weren’t born in that year.

Now read more about Terry Riley’s music in Requiem for Adam
Header image grab is from Bridget Riley's 1961 Movement in Squares. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included for "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Pliable said…
Hi Pliable, Thanks for the tip on the Hillier release and the Requiem for Adam post from earlier. David Harrington told me that Riley's most recent piece for Kronos, The Cusp of Magic, uses recorded sounds of toys belonging to Harrington's granddaughter. It's always good when living children can serve as inspiration, as well.

All best,


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