THE HARP OF NEW ALBION is a transfixing solo piano recording, conceived and performed by world-renowned minimalist composer, the ever-innovative Terry Riley. His inspiration for this work came from a legendary harp, left behind in the New World in 1579, on the shores of Nova Albion, which is now called San Francisco Bay. A Native American medicine man is said to have found the harp and placed it on a cliff where the westerly winds played upon it and temperature and humidity changes created an ever-shifting set of tonalities.
Riley bases the ten movements of THE HARP OF NEW ALBION on the concept of tonalities. The liner notes enclosed in both the compact disk and cassette explain the complicated ratios Riley devised for tuning his octaves. He says, "The idea of piano as harp influences my method of playing, as does the tuning from which the particular consonances and dissonances determine the emerging energies that flow through both instrument and performer." Although Riley improvises throughout THE HARP OF NEW ALBION, each movement is defined by structural or composed elements. Astonishingly, the halo of harmonics drifting above his solo piano creates an orchestral sound, complete with horns, reeds, strings and voices. At times, the melodic interplay is ethereal, the micro-tonal relationships within the standing waves of sounds creating a haunting spectrum.
Special note should be taken of the majestic Bosendorfer Imperial grand piano, especially tuned for Riley to play in the acoustically-fabulous Academy of Music in Mxxxx(?), Germany. The entire recording was accomplished during one incredible night of inspired piano performance.
Recorded in concert in 1975, DESCENDING MOONSHINE DERVISHES pulses with intricate, shifting layers of polyphonic sound. The fifty-two minute composition in two parts was performed live without the aid of pre-recorded tracks. Instead, Riley used a modified Yamaha YC 45D organ to create swirling, mind-altering improvisations seething with otherworldly tone colors.
Also captured in concert, SONGS FOR THE TEN VOICES OF THE TWO PROPHETS features original lyrics sung to the accompaniment of two Prophet 5 synthesizers. One of the rare recordings documenting Riley's deep gravelly singing style, SONGS FOR THE TEN VOICES OF THE TWO PROPHETS, combines the insights of East and West into a dynamic statement of the composer's own spiritual search through music.
Terry Riley's In C, one of the most influential compositions of the past quarter century, has been played by almost every conceivable combination of instruments; however, the Shanghai Film Orchestra's version ranks as one of the most exciting and exotic interpretations. It marks the 25th anniversary of the piece, and represents the first time a Western new music piece has been recorded in China.
The Shanghai Film Orchestra plays this contemporary Western work on traditional Chinese instruments. The tuning is different, and the tone colors of the ancient Chinese bells and strings lend a new vibrancy to the piece. The construction of this version is equally striking. Instead of following the score straight through, earlier parts are brought back and woven into a tapestry of sound even more mesmerizing than Riley's original recording.