Solfège de L'objet Sonor by Terry Riley In C

1879 Words Jun 24th, 2018 8 Pages
Terry Riley’s In C, ‘the founding work of the musical movement called minimalism’ (Carl, 2009, p.4), is written out on a single page of score that consists of 53 isolated units. It is intended for group performance, during which each member is to repeat one of the 53 aforementioned modules at will. Each performer is free to move on to the next module whenever he/she wishes, and the essence of the music as a whole is derived from the harmonies that superimposed modules give rise to.

Pierre Schaeffer’s Etude aux Chemins de Fer [Study on Railways], which ‘is widely recognized as the first piece of musique concrète’ (Horus Kemwer, 2007, para.2), exhibits recordings of trains that have been spliced, manipulated, and then structured in a way
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(Riech, cited in Carl, 2009, p.44)

Clearly, the rhythm issue is enormous. The main point to note is that the risk of rhythmic disorder is a weakness within In C that Schaeffer’s Etude simply does not share. Perhaps it could be deemed unfair to criticise flaws in a musical performance within the context of a comparison with a fixed recording, but this is precisely the essence one of the points Schaeffer was stressing in his abovementioned arguments.

Regardless of whether or not a given group of musicians are able to achieve perfect uniformity, their performance is bound to be conspicuously unique in terms of duration, instrumentation and synthesis of the many possible combinations of modules. Robert Carl catalogues a list of recordings and adds to each an indication of tempo, instrumentation and a short description (2009, p.111-123). The revealed number of potential permutations is enormous by design, and form a fundamental but tacit counter-philosophy to Schaeffer’s that Carl tidily summarises: ‘it can never exist in a “definitive” version’ (2009, p.11).

Nevertheless, Schaeffer did seem to produce writing that can be thought supportive of the sort of musical endeavour that Terry Riley’s In C is. The following

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