Lost in repetition with the master of minimalism: Pioneering composer and musician Terry Riley tells his story.
It’s one thing to master a genre, quite another to pioneer one. Terry Riley has succeeded at both. His long and winding career began in California in the 1960s, as he explored minimalism alongside his contemporaries Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick and Steve Reich. The early influence of jazz greats such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis, as well as the work of his friend and peer La Monte Young, fueled his desire for experimentalism, resulting in pieces such as “In C,” a modular musical construction considered by many to be the first minimalist composition. His years spent crisscrossing the globe also fed directly into his work, and would eventually lead him to Pandit Pran Nath, the Indian classical teacher who would go on to have a profound impact on Riley’s life and music. His seminal album A Rainbow In Curved Air, released in 1969, captured the freewheeling bliss of the late ’60s and would go on to inspire the likes of Pete Townshend and Mike Oldfield, even appearing in the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto IV. In this Fireside Chat, Riley discusses the genius of John Coltrane, his solo all-night concerts with the Phantom Band and the process of plunderphonics.