Album: Terry Riley, In C (Sony Classical)

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The Independent Culture

Reissued to celebrate its 40th anniversary, Terry Riley's In C not only remains one of the keystone works of minimalism, but – unlike many pieces in that style – has actually grown in stature: what was once considered a strange experiment now stands as a landmark of 20th century music.

It's basically 53 fragments of score played in sequence by a ten-piece ensemble over a static piano pulse, each player repeating a fragment as often as they like, provided they never precede or lag behind the others by more than three fragments - thus ensuring the relatively smooth transitions which are key to its enduring beauty. The other important factor is Riley's timbral palette favouring reeds and tuned percussion, which became a touchstone for subsequent minimalist works, notably Steve Reich's sumptuous Music For 18 Musicians.

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