When looking over the long arc of the life and career of Terry Riley, it is hard to feel anything but a glow. One of the most important voices in 20th century music, the composer has long doubled as a model for being – a vision of the counterculture’s capacity to instigate positive change. A man of remarkable intellect, creative vision, and skill, his public persona is profoundly generous – forgoing any trace of ego – which, in his case, might be forgiven, considering where he’s been and what he’s done. For Riley, the music speaks for itself – startling, and beautiful – carrying revelation and optimism into his listeners lives.
I often speak of my devotion to Indian Classical music, but what remains rarely mentioned, is the intimate role it plays in my life. Those sounds are among the few places I have ever found true solace and escape – a place to enter and allow my mind to rest. Beyond them, Riley’s efforts are among the rare few which offer anything close to the same. In many ways, having been part of my longer, the composer laid the groundwork for my entry into the traditions which we both adore. The debt I owe him, is many fold.
Terry Riley – Shri Camel (1980)
Yesterday, as I anxiously awaited James Comey’s testimony, and for the outcome of British elections to be know – hoping desperately that would herald the end of Donald Trump and Theresa May, two individuals who have unleashed abhorrent suffering into the world, I calmed my nerves with this film of Terry Riley performing at the Holland Festival in 1977. It encounters him playing Shri Camel, one of my favorite works in his catalog. Commissioned by Radio Bremen in 1975, and first performed in in mid 1976, Shri Camel wasn’t released as an album until 1980 – making this an important window into it’s evolution and life. Clocking in at just under an hour and accompanied by rare footage of Riley discussing his philosophy and approach, it’s a stunningly important document, and a writhing immersive body of sound. May it bring as much joy into your lives, as it has mine.
Terry Riley – Shri Camel, the Holland Festival (1977)