Largely considered the first piece of minimalist music, Terry Riley’s groundbreaking 'In C' was performed live in the Tate Modern in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Watch the interactive video and listen to this wonderful interpretation for the 21st Century (complete with African Orchestra).

The landscape of classical music in the first half of the 20th century was moving away from its complex, intricately layered predecessors in favour of something much more reflective of the changes and challenges of the time. With modernist composers such as Schoenberg at the forefront, developing atonal, serialist techniques, music was beginning to make audiences feel excluded. These movements became very much the domain of academics and only appreciated by the masses in hindsight. In 1964, taken by these academic techniques, composer Terry Riley wrote a piece called In C. It is perhaps its clever arrangement (or lack thereof), or maybe its accessible melody and concept that caused it to enter public consciousness; composed in such a manner that it is in constant flux, and is incapable of being played the same way twice. The set-up is rather complicated to explain. Essentially, ‘In C’ consists of 53 musical phases lasting anywhere from half a beat up to 32 beats, from here it's all arbitrary; the musicians play which phase they like. The movement of the music then rests on the collective consciousness of the musicians; it is not predetermined by the composer. Having said that, there are a few rules to follow: all phases must be played in the correct order, although phases can be skipped, musicians must stay within 2 or 3 phases of one another.

If I have lost you then the best way to explain is to show you. Fortunately, in celebration of In C’s 50th anniversary, Tate Modern, along with Africa Express and The Space performed a new interpretation, which you can watch here.

Terry Riley’s In C Mali live at tate modern

Led by classical conductor André de Ridder, performing Terry Riley’s In C Mali, a new interpretation of Riley’s pioneering work, live at Tate Modern with an African orchestra that includes three balafons, three koras, ngoni, kalimbas, three percussionists with talking drum, calabash, sabar drums, alongside guitar, bass, violin, delta harp and beats by Mouse on Mars. The film performance is intercut with iconic minimalist art works from the Tate Collection by Donald Judd, Josef Albers and Frank Stella; as well as footage of Africa Express and de Ridder in Bamako, Mali where the first African version of this minimalist classic was recorded with the cream of new contemporary Malian musicians.

“Pioneering minimalist music and iconic minimalist art come together by way of Africa in this interactive film. It’s a mesmerising mix. This is the first time that Tate has created a film that allows viewers to choose different pathways through footage to create their own unique experience.  We are delighted to have worked with The Space and Africa Express to reimagine what it is to watch a performance or to explore a gallery.”

Jane Burton, Creative Director, Tate Modern

If you are interested in the digital arts and similar projects, go over to The Space

Related Posts