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Terry Riley: The Piano Works

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“The story starts down on Mrs. Halton’s chicken farm on the back road from Colfax to Weimar, California during WWII. 
My mother and I were living with my grandparents in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills where my father, a US Marine, was off fighting the Japanese in the Pacific for 3 years. 
Each Saturday my Italian Nona would drive me to my piano lesson in her 1934 black Plymouth sedan. I would have the lesson (find out where middle C was, etc.) and then she would drive home, me in the back seat with two or three live chickens that were to be magically transformed into Sunday’s meal. My Nona, Ida Ridolfi, sang opera in the kitchen while she prepared the most savorous Italian meals imaginable. Every Sunday, unannounced, 20 to 25 guests would come to Weimar, drawn to her legendary feasts. She never knew who exactly would be showing up, but show up they invariably did. She did this ritual joyously all the years I knew her and I might add it was quite a miracle on my Nono’s meager salary as a section foreman for the Southern Pacific Railroad. I credit her with being my first Guru and her independent spirit, her generosity, her teachings and example have guided me all these years.”
Terry Riley, most commonly associated with the minimalist and experimental schools of music, draws influence from a vast number of sources, including jazz and Indian classical music. In turn, his influence on contemporary composers and music in general is enormous, and with this collection of his Piano Works, you can learn a selection of his fascinating, hypnotic and simply stunning compositions for solo Piano.

As one of the founders of western music’s minimalist movement, Riley‘s works have been acclaimed as forays into ever-expanding loops of rhythm and melody, music that, instead of being listened to, immerses and envelops you. His early works, such as ‘In C’, spearheaded this innovative idea, beginning a career unmatched by other avant-garde composers. With The Piano Works, this collection of Terry Riley sheet music finally brings together some of his best-loved and most acclaimed works for solo Piano, like The Philosopher’s Hand and Two Pieces For Piano.
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Featuring an extensive foreword by Terry Riley himself, this is not just a collection of sheet music, it’s almost a work of art: a brilliant publication featuring some beautifully engraved music along with words by a genius composer. Riley gives a vast amount of fascinating biographical and compositional information about his included Piano Works, such asKeyboard Study No.1 and No.2, Be Kind To One Another (Rag) and The Heaven Ladder Book 7. At times humourous and always eloquent, his foreword tells the story of this composer’s journey from humble Piano lessons to masterpieces and an unfathomable influence, it’s just great. Finally, at the end of the book, a selection of facsimiles of Riley‘s own handwritten scores is included, letting you see what the music looks like from the man’s own hand.
As well as the foreword, there are introductory performance notes for each piece by pianist Sarah Cahill. These expound the techniques, skills and experience necessary to master each piece, but also simply provide some interesting reading before delving into the harmonic and rhythmic rabbit-hole that is Riley‘s Piano Works. Aside from the theoretical and academic joy that Terry Riley‘s music affords, the most immediate pleasure is the universal aesthetic beauty of the sounds that will emanate from your Piano as you play these wonderfully whirling and dynamic compositions.
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As a collection of sheet music, Terry Riley‘s Piano Works would make a wonderful addition to your music stand. As a book that will bring endless enjoyment to fans not just of Riley himself, but music in general, the foreword and performance notes combined with the magical music make a fantastic edition of a true master’s masterpieces.

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