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by Seth Colter Walls

August 21, 2013

Classical Remix: Terry Riley's In C

by Seth Colter Walls  |  August 21, 2013

Welcome to Rhapsody's Classical Remix Portal, which you can follow here. In every playlist, we present classical works in their original forms. Then, after each one is over, we give you an upstart musician's rethink.

It wasn't the original minimalist opus, but Terry Riley's "In C," which can be played by any number of musicians, was one of the first minimalist compositions to enter the public consciousness. Made up of 53 short melodic phrases that each individual within a group can play as many times as he or she likes (before moving on to the next one), it has inspired any number of fantastic, mind-bending performances over the years.

But the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble did something new with the piece in 2009: They invited composers and electronic musicians to remix the results of their new studio recording of the piece. The results are varied: DJ Spooky's rendition betrays an illbient swing (as well it should), just as composer Nico Muhly's version orients the composition in the direction of his fascinations (like Philip Glass, and English classical traditions from earlier eras). Some remixes sound close to club-ready. But not so strangely, given the openness of Riley's philosophy, each of these pieces feels correct for "In C," no matter how different they may sound on the surface.

The attached playlist front-loads the original 1968 recording of "In C," from Columbia/CBS records. (If you've never heard it, you should -- especially before you get to the re-thought versions!) Six remixes from the Grand Valley recording follow, as does the Grand Valley studio version that the guest artists used as their remix source material. Finally, the playlist concludes with another separate, full version of "In C," performed by the Grand Valley State New Music Ensemble, plus electronic artist Dennis DeSantis. All told, there's enough pulsing action in the key of C here to drive you through your day (or night) of focused work (or blissed-out relaxation).

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