Saturday, September 23, 2017

Brooklyn Raga Massive In C

Last Saturday afternoon at Yerba Buena Gardens, a musical ensemble called Brooklyn Raga Massive performed a version of San Francisco composer Terry Riley's 1964 minimalist masterpiece, In C.

The group was an interesting looking and sounding mixture of traditional East Indian ragas and Western Jazz.

They were accompanied by the San Francisco hipster classical music ensemble Classical Revolution on various instruments, and they seemed to be most at home in the Riley work.

The idea of a raga-influenced performance of In C was interesting on paper, but the result sounded more like jazz than minimalism, with the leader of the ensemble directing instrumentalists and singers to quiet down when various instruments had a solo. Though there are plenty of performer choices involved with a live performance of the work, one of its major joys is as a communal experience, where a group of musicians play off and over each other, with no solos involved.

We did not stay for the whole performance, and darted across the street for more Edward Munch madness. James Parr is posing with Self-Portrait with Spanish Influenza.

Then we went to the 7th floor, looked at the strange new skyline South of Market from their terrace, and experienced Ragnar Kjartansson's hour-long The Visitors again, which was oddly closer in musical style, communal spirit, and emotional affect to In C than the live performance across the street.

2 comments:

Stephen Smoliar said...

Here is a more readable version:

Improvisation does not figure in the score for "In C." There are plenty of opportunities for choice by the individual players: when to begin a fragment and how many times to repeat it. However, the improvisations introduced by Brooklyn Raga Massive have nothing to do with Riley's conception. Mind you, I had no problems with listening to their improvisations. In my own piece I was bold enough to speculate that Riley would have enjoyed the Brooklyn Raga Massive take on performing his music.

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Stephen: I got rid of your earlier, less "readable" comment, and also changed "improvisation" to "performer choices" in the post because you are perfectly correct. Nice to see you and Linda at the New Century Chamber Orchestra last night.