Terry Riley, on the other hand, has recorded throughout his career. His early recordings for CBS put him at the forefront of mainstream Minimalism, and made him one of the most influential composers of the late 60s. In C was released in 1968, followed by Poppy Nogood and His Phantom Band (1968) and Rainbow in Curved Air (1969). The latter, in particular, is a classic example of early Minimalism. Rainbow is scored for electric keyboards, layered on top of one another; one provides a sort of drone, while the others improvise in modal patterns reminiscent of north Indian music. But while Young's music was performed in "real time," Riley began experimenting with "time-lag" and feedback systems, so that Poppy Nogood's "Phantom Band" actually consists of the various layers of Riley's own music.
He also began to work with keyboard instruments tuned in just intonation. By using a Yamaha electronic organ and employing his tap/feedback devices, Riley produced a highly original and instantly identifiable sound, one he would continue to use right up to the 190s.(?)
In 1970, both Young and Riley met the great Indian vocalist Pandit Pran Nath, with whom they began to study Indian raga and vocal techniques. It's tempting to attribute Riley's mystical keyboard pieces of the 70s to that apprenticeship, especially the swirling textures and the almost vocal quality of the melodies in Descending Moonshine Dervishes (1975). But the composer points to an additional influence: "When I was living in Spain," he says, "I used to listen to the radio a lot, and I'd get the stations from Tangiers and the cities right across the Mediterranean. That's the first music that really sank in . Those "maqams" the Middle Eastern scales, have always attracted me. Even though I'm a student of Indian classical music and that's my main love as far as ethnic music goes, when I write my own music it tends to have a Middle Eastern flavor. There's always been a kind of dream world for me there."
The effect of Riley's studies with Pandit Pran Nath is most clearly pronounced n the 1982 Songs for the Ten Voices of the Two Prophets. In this collection of three works, Riley abandoned the electronic organ in favor of two Prophet-V synthesizers (hence the title), and sang, using the traditional techniques of Indian raga. The synthesizers give this recording a depth and a brilliance that a single organ couldn't produce, though Riley himself has mixed feelings about them. He spent a year working on synthesizer technique, then rigged the two Prophets up like a double manual organ. "It was a lot more awkward and a lot more knob-twiddling," he admits. "And it eventually resulted in my putting all my electronic equipment in boxes, and taking 1985 off as an acoustical year."
In 1983, Riley began working with North Indian sitar and tabla layer Krishna Bhatt. Their first tour saw Riley playing synthesizer, but they soon developed a style of playing piano and sitar together, and in 1984, Riley began working with the muted piano. By using only one string for each piano key rather than the traditional three, he was able to produce strong harmonic and subtle percussive effects. The piano, of course, was tuned in just intonation and had to be amplified to make up for the reduction in volume.
Riley's 1984 piano work, The Harp of New Albion, offers a baffling array of sounds that one normally doesn't associate with the piano. It is also structured differently__instead of cyclic forms, much of The Harp of New Albion is in spiral form. "Something spins off a little motif," he explains, "and gets larger and more arpeggiated, more embroidered. It cycles back to a certain note, but it's very irregular; it takes a circuitous route."
Since 1980, Riley has also been working closely with the Kronos String Quartet, an ensemble that plays everything from traditional string quartets to jazz and blues. The Kronos has performed a number of works written for them by Riley, and also in 1984 recorded several of his pieces. "My work in the 80s is taking on a new character," he says. "The quartets and the piano works both exhibit something new__I feel I'm working differently now. In some ways, I'm going back to the place I was before I started using loops and repetition." p.75-76