Terry Riley - Persian Surgery Dervishes 2xLP
The classic minimal music album is now available again on vinyl for the first time since the '70s. During the 1970s, Californian composer Terry Riley concentrated on solo keyboard performances, continuing to make music yet writing down almost nothing. Riley selected a mode, chose a few motifs or basic patterns and then, seated on the floor in front of his audience, improvised on electronic keyboard. The electric organ, superseded at later concerts by a synthesizer, was portable and consistent. By the early '70s, Riley had come to feel that scores were a distraction. Faithful interpretation of an already written piece was a deviation from the true purpose of making music, which was spiritual quest. Fortunately, some of those live performances were captured on tape. Persian Surgery Dervishes, issued initially on the French label Shandar in 1972, features two such concerts for electric organ and reel-to-reel delay, one recorded in Los Angeles on April 18th, 1971, the other in Paris on May 24th, 1972. At the start of that decade, Riley became a dedicated student of the great Hindustani singer Pandit Pran Nath. Looking into North Indian classical tradition, he found correspondences to modal and cyclic ideas that he was already working on. In 1971, Riley started teaching Indian music at Mills College, in Oakland. That experience fed directly into his solo keyboard performances, but other influences were also shaping his music. Personal research into ancient Persian culture and the poetry of Rumi lit up his imagination, while the repetitive swirling of Sufi devotional music from North Africa and jazz, an enduring source of inspiration, reverberate through these performances. The Californian version of Persian Surgery Dervishes starts with low dark tones, dense and brooding like a huddled human figure, deep in introspection. But as the improvisation unfolds Riley's buoyant spirit asserts itself, spiraling out in ecstatic coils. The Parisian concert conveys a different mood, brighter and more open in texture, more relaxed from the outset and breathing with greater freedom as it takes flight. Persian Surgery Dervishes is a mesmerizing record of a vital stage in Riley's ongoing quest for connection with the universal mind and sublime music.