Although there were other composers in the early 1960s exploring what would later be termed minimalism, Terry Riley has come to be known as the grandfather of the genre. And truth be known, Riley is certainly the spiritual guide for later minimalists such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams.
Riley’s seminal In C is a masterpiece and still one of the most profound works of minimalism. Lesser known, but equally important, is his Dorian Reeds, written around the same time as In C.
Until now, there have only been two recordings of Dorian Reeds, the first by Riley in 1967, and the second some 40 years later by Ulrich Krieger. Now, Utah musician Matt Starling (formerly Matt Dixon), a regular contributor to Reichel Recommends, has finished his recording of the piece and added a twist to it in the process.
The two earlier versions were played on saxophone, but Starling, a brass player, has changed things up a bit and recorded it on flugelhorn. It works remarkably well for a brass instrument. And thanks to Starling’s virtuosic playing and technical wizardry it’s a powerful realization that still has a lot to offer listeners in general and Riley fans in particular.
Unlike In C, which is based on a lengthy set of notes and motivic fragments played repeatedly by an unspecified number of instruments, Dorian Reeds employs a tape loop which is activated once the player starts. The effect is much the same as In C, but it’s a more sophisticated approach.
Starling takes the old analog tape technology and adds today’s computer technology to recreate the work and make it modern and new. For anyone who knows Riley’s original recording this makes the piece sound fresh, vibrant and exciting.
This is a powerful recording that underscores the immediacy of the work, its driving passion, relentless energy and hypnotic charm. It captures the infinite vastness that this piece conjures up.
It’s obvious that Starling has an affinity for Riley (he has also recorded In C with his Salt Lake Electric Ensemble) and this affinity comes through in this performance. It’s an important addition to the Riley discography.
Dorian Reeds is scheduled to be released on March 22. CDs can be ordered at mattstarling.bandcamp.com and Amazon.com. Digital downloads will be available at all major outlets including Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon mp3, eMusic and Google Play.
(Read Edward Reichel’s interview with Matt Starling by clicking here.)