Eighty Trips Around the Sun: Music by and for Terry Riley
Sarah Cahill, Regina Myers, & Samuel Adams, piano
Disc 1: Terry Riley Solo Pieces
- Sarah Cahill, piano
1. Two Pieces (No. 1)
2. Two Pieces (No. 2)
3. Keyboard Studies
4. Fandango on the Heaven Ladder
5. Simone's Lullaby*
6. Misha's Bear Dance*
7. Be Kind to One Another
*Regina Myers, piano
Disc 2: Four Hands Terry Riley
- Regina Myers (primo) Sarah Cahill (secundo)
1. Cinco de Mayo
2. Tango Doble Ladiado
3. Waltz for Charismas
5. Etude from the Old Country
Disc 3: Sarah Cahill, piano
1. Danny Clay: Circle Songs
2. Gyan Riley: Poppy Infinite
3. Samuel Adams: Shade Studies
4. Christine Southworth: Sparkita and Her Kittens
5. Keeril Makan: Before C
6. Elena Ruehr: In C Too
7. Dylan Mattingly: Y E A R
Disc 4: Pauline Oliveros: A Trilling Piece for Terry
Sarah Cahill & Samuel Adams, piano & live electronics
Eighty Trips Around the Sun is a celebration of the great composer-pianist Terry Riley, bringing together a collection of his compositions for solo and four-hands piano spanning fifty years, from his twelve-tone Two Pieces (1958/1959) to his free-wheeling Be Kind to One Another from 2008 (revised in 2014). This set also includes seven tribute pieces composed for Riley’s eightieth birthday year in 2015.
Terry Riley is one of the most significant and influential composer-pianists of our era, in the great tradition of Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, Art Tatum, Sergei Rachmaninov, and Thelonius Monk, and, in our own time, Frederic Rzewski, Cecil Taylor, Carla Bley, and William Bolcom. These are composers whose piano music is inseparable from their physical presence at the piano. Just as Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes give you a clear image of Liszt’s hands on the keys, Terry’s own improvisations inform his Fandango on the Heaven Ladder and Etude from the Old Country. And we are especially fortunate to be able to hear Terry in concert, and documented in videos and recordings, which is essential in understanding how to approach his piano scores. Watching his relaxed but powerful stance at the keyboard, the strong presence of the left hand bass, the effortlessness with which brilliant passagework can turn into a lyrical ballad, how a theme unfolds over a trance-like pattern, his quicksilver shifts of mood and style—all this gives us insights into his notated music.
Terry’s piano music feels satisfying in the hands, the way Ravel or Chopin feels; everything fits perfectly. The stylistic range is mind-boggling: it’s hard to conceive of two such polar opposites as Two Pieces and Keyboard Studies, composed a mere five years apart. And the stylistic range within one piece is also mind-boggling, and therein lies the greatest challenge to a pianist playing Terry’s music: veering from a left-hand stride to minimalist patterns to a Bill Evansesque jazz sequence to honky tonk to a lyrical romantic interlude to a raga-inspired passage can be daunting. But there is also remarkable consistency and continuity through the stylistic changes. The material evolves, modulates, takes surprising turns, shape-shifts into adventurous territory which is new but still somehow recognizable. If there is a “California school” of composition, Terry’s music embodies all of its freedom and optimism and playfulness and experimentation, while thumbing its nose at the rules and regulations.
The scores for these pieces leave a lot open to interpretation, and Riley welcomes a multiplicity of interpretations. There are hints of a composer impatient to notate every detail, who prefers spontanaeity. “The periods of my musical activity are only occasionally punctuated by notated scores,” he says. His own long durational works “defy notation. They resist being put into any container but have a boundless passion to emulate the Sound Current which is free in its eternal responsibility of holding the Universe together. To this day, this is the way I like to operate musically. But as a by-product, these notated pieces are like pages from a diary, a sort of ‘fallen petals along the way.’” And therein lies a fascinating paradox about Terry Riley, the tension between composition and improvisation. In many of these pieces, he morphs from one idiom to another as if he’s improvising. But they also stand up to analysis as compositions. For example, in pieces like Be Kind to One Another and Fandango on the Heaven Ladder, the entire piece evolves from the opening material, like the potential for an entire tree contained in a seed. This method gives each piece its structural integrity, and is also key to Terry’s improvisations, in which he introduces his material and then expands on it, riffs on it, elaborates on it, and takes us on a wild journey with occasional reminders of home.
A few of Terry’s brilliant longer solo works didn’t make their way onto this recording project, notably Ragtempus Fugatis and Venus in 94, both from The Heaven Ladder Book 7, and The Walrus in Memoriam, a dazzlingly inventive take on the Beatles’ song I Am the Walrus. Adventurous pianists are enthusiastically encouraged to study and perform these remarkable pieces which, if there is justice in the world, will soon enter the canon and be heard at conservatories and concert halls around the globe.
- Sarah Cahill
released September 29, 2017
Recorded August & December 2015, April 2017, on the Richard Cass Memorial Steinway, White
Hall, University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Executive Producers: Michelle Allen McIntire, Sarah Cahill & David D. McIntire
Produced by David D. McIntire & Sarah Cahill
Piano Technician: Kent Swafford
Engineering: Robert Beck & Jonathan Robertson
Editing: Jonathan Robertson & David D. McIntire
Mastering: Eric Honour
Art Direction and Layout: Scott Unrein
Special thanks to: Aaron Copland Fund, Michelle Allen McIntire, Robert Beck, Jonathan Robertson, Eric Honour, Scott Unrein, and Peter Witte.
Also special thanks for generous funding for A Piano Party for Terry Riley at 80 comes from Richard Walker, Russ Irwin, the Thendara Foundation, the Ross McKee Foundation, New Music USA, and MIT CAST (Center for Art, Science, & Technology). Be Kind to One Another (Rag) was commissioned by Stephen B. Hahn and Mary Jane Beddow.
I would like to thank Steed Cowart for recommending me for this project; Sarah for the incredible opportunity; Terry for giving this music to the world; David and Michelle McIntire for making this album; and my wife, Melodie, for her support and for recording our original demo, which is how she and I first met.
David McIntire had all the best ideas when it came to this release. The boxed set combining solo and four-hand works by Terry Riley with new pieces commissioned in his honor was David’s idea. It was his inspiration to record extended versions of both Pauline Oliveros’ A Trilling Piece for Terry and Terry Riley’s Keyboard Studies. David is a visionary as a producer, composer, and musician, and my deepest thanks go to him and Michelle McIntire for their indefatigable work with Irritable Hedgehog.
Many thanks also to John and Miranda Sanborn.
This recording project is dedicated with love, admiration, and gratitude to Terry Riley.