Monday, October 12, 2015

In C by Terry Riley for Link Up: Grades 3-5

Carnegie Hall's Link Up program "The Orchestra Rocks" includes Terry Riley's "In C."
For Grades 3-5.

Download the pdf of the original one-page score along with the two pages of instructions.

Performance/Rehearsal Directions
  • "In C" consists of 53 short, numbered musical phrases, though for Link Up, you will only focus on the first seven. Students can sing or play the phrases. 
  •  Each phrase may be repeated as many times as each performer chooses. Each musician has control over which phrase he or she plays: players are encouraged to play the phrases starting at different times, even if they are playing the same phrase. In this way, although the melodic content of each part is predetermined, In C has elements of aleatoric music to it.  
  • The performance directions state that the musical ensemble should try to stay within two to three phrases of each other. The phrases must be played in order, although some may be skipped. 
  • One performer (or group of performers) keeps the pulse for the group by playing repeated eighth-note C's on piano, tone-bar or marimba during the entire performance. 
  • Grace notes can be omitted for recorders if necessary. 
  • You may want to also add non-pitched percussion instruments, clapping, or snapping as part of your performance exploration. 
  • Work to play/sing at the correct pitch with good tone and good rhythm. 
  • Incorporate over-all ensemble changes in dynamics from louder to softer into the class performances of the piece. 
  • Once students are comfortable performing "In C" have them compose their own "In G" (page 20 of the student guide). 
  • Listen to different types of performances of "In C" by professional ensembles (at the bottom of this post) for ideas about new ways to perform it, and to discuss the ideas of tempo and tone color.

Terms and concepts associated with Terry Riley's "In C"
  • Minimalism: Style of music that started in New York City in the 1960s. Prominent features of the technique include consonant harmony, steady pulse (if not immobile drones), stasis or gradual transformation, and often reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units such as figures, motifs, and cells. 
  • Metronome: Any device that produces a regular, metrical pulse. Here, the person performing the repeated eighth-note Cs is being the metronome. The rhythms of the other performers should fit within the beat created by the person acting as the metronome. 
  • Aleatoric music: Music in which some element of the composition is left to chance, and/or some primary element of a composed work's realization is left to the determination of its performer(s). In this piece, each person chooses how many times to repeat each phrase before moving on to the next once, thus each performance is different and not completely controlled. 
  • Pattern: Something that repeats. Look for different types of patterns in this piece. 
  • Sequence: In music, a sequence is the restatement of a motif or longer melodic (or harmonic) passage at a higher or lower pitch in the same voice.
  • Key: The key of a piece is the tonic note and chord/scale which gives a sense of arrival and resolution. "In C" is in the key of C. Notice how all the phrases relate to the tonic of C as it is performed. 

Some Interesting Performances of "In C" on YouTube

Shows video closeups of the instruments and performers clearly. Uses African instruments, and has nice low tone colors and added percussion elements that are interesting and appealing: 

Also uses African Instruments, but in a very different way:

The original recording from 1968:

Bang On a Can performance. Nice tone colors and use of dynamics in the ensemble:

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