Skip links

Program 633: Four Takes on "In C"

KALW Broadcast Date: January 1, 2021 | Host: Mark Abramson

Music For Other Minds program 633 presents four fresh takes on Terry Riley’s minimalist work from 1964, “In C.” The piece consists of 53 short musical phrases, which range from half a beat to 32 beats in length. It is performed using a flexible set of rules. The phrases must be played in the order specified by the composer, but each phrase may be repeated an arbitrary number of times by each musician in the ensemble. Musicians repeat each phrase an indeterminate number of times, and may start playing whenever the time is right. Musicians are meant to stay within two or three phrases of each other. A pulse is provided by one musician playing the note C with repeated 8th notes. The number of instruments and type of instruments that make up the ensemble can vary widely. The four versions of “In C” featured here are by ensemble of multiple persuasions. Zoë Keating’s remix of a version by the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble is almost unrecognizable but keeps the spirit of Riley’s composition intact. Bang on a Can’s recording is much closer to what we might expect to hear in contemporary classical music context. Africa Express recorded a version that features a joyous vibe and African instruments – balafon, calabash, djembe, kalimba, and kora. And the wild version by psychedelic rockers Acid Mother’s Temple doesn’t necessarily play by the rules, but is arguably performed in the spirit with which the work was composed.

For those of you who would like to take a crack at performing this piece, here is a link to the PDF, which also includes the composer’s performance notes. This is a publicly available score which we found on the Third Coast Percussion web site.

Program Audio

30-Second Spot

Track Info & Links

Title: Zinc
Composer: Terry Riley, Zoë Keating
Performers: Zoë Keating, Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble
Recording Title: In C Remixed (2009) 
Record Label: Innova Records
Catalog Number: 758


Title: In C
Composer: Terry Riley
Performers: Bang on a Can
Recording Title: In C (2001) 
Record Label: Cantaloupe Music
Catalog Number: CA 21004


Title: In C Mali
Composer: Terry Riley
Performers: Africa Express
Recording Title: Terry Riley’s “In C” Mali (2015) 
Record Label: Transgressive Records
Catalog Number: TRANS186


Title: In C
Composer: Terry Riley
Performers: Acid Mother’s Temple
Recording Title: In C (2002) 
Record Label: Squealer
Catalog Number: SQLR 037

Close Search

Start typing and press Enter to search