Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New Nambu (11) “In 1977, I went to watch Terry Riley 2"


The word, “Minimalism” is known with Art and related with 60’s pop art, Optical art, but I will focus at Minimalism in music, because I think it is too complicated. The style also called “minimal music” or “new modal music”, it is a little pop contemporary music grew up in the scene keeping distance from past academism.

Riley was called one of “four minimal kings” along with La Monte Young, Phillip Glass, and Steve Reich (is he from Jewish family?). Other minimal artists were appearing other than them, but I omit them because it’s too many. But, I’d like to note Wim Mertens only. Because he wrote the book called “Minimal music” and it was translated and published in Japan, and his music was known with the works of Jan Farbre, a famous choreographer.

And as pupils of L. M. Young, there were John Hassel who played with Eno, John Cale of Velvets, Rhys Chatham who appeared at Moers new jazz festival, moreover Angus Maclise who was a unique musician. There were more.

By the way, Young studied the vocalism called “Kirana style” from a Indian classical music vocalist, Pandit Pran Nath with Terry Riley. And, Reich created his minimalism by working with Ravi Shankar. Furthermore Reich studied the drumming at the tribal society called Yoruba in Africa. In first, Young played the sax and performed like events or happenings with Fluxus guys, he created unique chord by the oscillator and come up with continuing to play it eternally. This one will continue before and after his death forever.

According to the performer, Shinichi Arai ( an alcoholic he and other person admitted ) who actually met him, Young continued to listen to that sound by an earphone with his ears all the time. Calling this duration event. “The Theater of Eternal Music”, he performed his unique vocalism in that drone and co-performers were playing the same sound by instrumentals single-mindedly. Although it seems to be easy in a moment, you would understand that you need to control yourself if you would be playing. It almost the training. ( An record shop owner in Tokyo, Mr. Ibe calls it “La Monte Religion”)

He performed as solo for some hours by piano with his original tuning by himself, and played strange blues rock with members of Swans. Tony Conrad who is known for collaboration with a Kraut rock group, Faust, or as a legendary experimental film maker of “Flicker” gave his name “ I am the very pioneer of minimal method” and criticize Young. Well, It was truth that they had performed together in the past.

At the first time, Grass played his pieces by organ alone ( the recordings at that time was released from the French label, Shandar along with Pandit Pran Nath, the solo of Young, the solo of Riley. Also Shandar released the precious recordings of Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, and Cecil Taylor), but he formed an ensemble to play for playing his music only, and they had a favorable reception when they played intensive, high-impact live performances without any compromise at the concert in Japan.

The view of the performance by this group was recorded in a film of Peter Greenaway’s “Four American Composers”. (In addition, It was an interesting film because John Cage, Meredith Monk, and Robert Ashley were selected in the film.) He is active now, for example music of opera(?) “Einstein on the beach” directed by Robert Wilson, the soundtrack of “Koyaanisqatsi” Francis Ford Coppola also involved in, the trial to play the song of David Bowie by an orchestra with Eno, a collaboration with Aphex Twin.

Sampling the voice of preachers in the street, Reich created the method to metamorphose the music with electronic delay ( “It’s gonna rain” , “Come out” and so on) and the music for hand crapping or the music for the little wooden blocks. This was etude for making the dynamic change gradually by shifting rhythm or by using polyrhythm ( I like these works at this period very much). He organized his ensemble like Glass, and developed the strict method to create the continuing and slow change for a long time, it gradually grew up and orchestras finally played it.

Riley remixed pops or jazz ( surprisingly, a sound source is Chet Baker) with tapes or electronic delay devices or used the special electronic organ. The tuning was called just intonation, one pattern was set as the repeats with delay, and the simultaneous improvisation on it, for listeners always could listen to it harmonically. Double album called “Persian surgery dervish” released from Shandar, and “A rainbow in curved air” released from a major label, CBS. The later become big hit.

On the other hand, there is a work called “In C” which is known as classic of minimalism. This tune comprises from 53 short musical scores, each performer freely pick up and repeat some. Accumulating them, sounds like complicated meshes was created as a whole. The author has listened to this song by Chinese instruments once, and it sounded strange. The Who’s hit number “Won't Get Fooled Again“ begins long organ solo which continued from the final part of the previous number “Baba O’Riley”, and the sound of it was apparently influenced from Riley as you know the title.

As you can notice, four minimal kings have common term. In regard to their sources, they got clues from ethnic music, in terms of method they used electronic sound sources, and there are selections which a strict ensemble or improvisation and they have influenced the style of rock or techno. ”Repetition”, the method of minimalism is coincide with the programming by synthesizers or sequencers and using computers in the rock or pops fields since early 1970’s. So, there are influences from minimalism called “techno pop”. Techno pop I say here is slightly different from so-called “techno” nowadays. For example, I should pick up Kraftwerk or YMO. But, this stream influenced later techno.

In July, 1977, I stayed in the apartment of Mr. Sato, my friend who lived in Mitaka three days before the concert in Okutama. Then, we looked around record shops in Tokyo in first. I got a good information from Satoshi Ashikawa, the manager of the contemporary art and contemporary music store “Art Vivant” ( he was the composer and the performer. Later, he established an independent label after he quitted the manager, and invited Harold Budd to Japan. It was totally success! Then he died by a traffic accident shortly after that.) .

I heard Riley would do the lecture concert at American center in Shiba before the gig in Okutama. I would go to the concert with Mr.Bide (later Ultra Bide) from Kyoto. American center seem to be established to promote various aspects of American culture to Japan, but I guess there someone think we don’t need such thing other than me. We were partly a dependency country of America in cultural sides. Well, I think the facility was for sophisticated and polite aspects of American culture. (I remember Mr. Keiji Haino was there) I felt the change of the time from knowing such a counter-culture musician played in such an institute,

Riley played the title called “Shri Camel Trinity”. This was the same title in Okutama. I wrote it was improvisation by the particular setting on the previous article. I feel sorry I write again the performance by Riley was what kind of music, for example, you should remember “Inventions for electric guitar” by the solo of Manuel Goettsching, if you were a fan of Kraut rock and a fan of Ash La TempeI. Is that more rare than Riley?Such thinking of Riley was similar to Raga of Indian music. The difference from Raga is that it has a lot of external elements which limits Raga performed at that time. For example, a time zone, season or weather. You must change along with that transition because Raga is based on the idea of Indian nature. Riley’s has prescribed his was as the piece without such limits, and it based on Western music. Oh, I don’t regard both of them. (Maybe, it’s most important)

He did the lecture not so long with such talk, and he played one hour. His commentary made the mystic veil of my own thought for him stripped. For example, Coltrane intensively fired up in modal improvisation. Coltrane was fascinated with Ravi Shankar, but when Shankar listened to his performance, Shankar was said to blame him “Is here love and peace in such performance?”. However, he can’t afford to change his style.

I think of Riley who focused to sink by the organ not changing the volume. In Indian classical music, rhythm is regarded as Tala or Gat, and it is too complicated. There aren’t such bothering things in Riley’s music. If Indian listened to his music, they might think “Why does he Alap so long?” Alap is a part of suggestion like “ We will play by this Raga today”. That part ends and they plays with percussions called Tabla baya, finally Raga is developing. But, I can say Raga of Riley doesn’t start until end at last from the view of Indian music.

Because I understand such things, it’s only a matter of performance sense. How is sense of Riley as an improviser. More than that, does he a performer or a composer? It is usual that the minimal styled composers play their works by themselves. Also, there were a lot of scenes composers were playing by themselves at “Media 3” in Unesco village. A mystical image of musician was fading by thinking relationship between theories and equipments. Relationship between composers and performers remained. It seemed to be simple, but it’ actually wasn’t so. It’s easy for you to think composers play to realize their musical ideas into real sounds. But, the act of composing will never resolve by that. I won’t write that here. 

Then, here is an another issue. Terry Riley found out the structure of popular music. Recently, I listened to his work “You’re no good” introduced by Mr. Hori. He played “principles of popular music” by low-end technology. He made loops by repeat units from the tape recorded from the R&B record and played it endlessly. Sometimes, he slightly changes it. It’s ok. A French composer, Bernard Parmegiani did a same thing in “Jazzex”. He surprisingly used Mothers of Invention, and that song was “King Kong” which has the most repeat phrases in MOI’s works. “Music of Repeat”, it seems to be expressed as character of minimal music.

However, actually there is “difference” between repeat of popular music and one of minimal music like Riley. I must mention about the difference the popular music as the dance music and the song, between the minimal music as fine art music in the stream of Western music tradition. The repeat of the former does not change ever in a piece, and that of the later changes ever from the beginning to the end of the piece. So, minimal music is sometimes called as “gradual changing music”. Bues, gospel, R&B, jazz, not popular music all over the world are basically dance music, and dance is also we make our body along numbers. That is, we must base on refrain of one unit “to count”. It’s only a matter that how performers put their move, performance or songs on that refrain. Dance music? Yes. It’s alright.

However, there are two different dances. And I dare to say them in Japanese, “Mai (Bu)” and ”Odrori (You)”. The former is a kind of ritual actions and it is the complex of uncountable motions. The later is for entertainment and togetherness in community. I must say this issue in the future. And there is a direction of popular music Riley hasn’t deal with. It’s “Song” as the combination of lyrics with melody. Riley learned “vocalization” from his teacher Nath, but how about the “song”. Throat-singing is not ”song” but “vocalization”. There are a lot of singers who “sings” by throat-singing locally.

What is “song”. This is a theme which pursues the fundamental relationship between human and music. It’s exact that popular music is with “song”. Our views for music seem to be radically changed, because Twelve-tone music was established and recording and selling media have made success as business. I think “song” gradually has started to be far from us since that. There were a lot of fundamental music themes I found from Riley, like popular music and art music, composing and performance, “song” and dance, repeat and change, tuning, and improvisation.

No comments:

Post a Comment