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TERRY RILEY: Four Four Three – Ragazze Quartet/ Slagwerk den Haag/ Kapok – Channel Classics

A program of music by the American minimalist composer Terry Riley, newly arranged with a jazz trio and more.

TERRY RILEY: Four Four Three – Ragazze Quartet/ Slagwerk den Haag/ Kapok – Channel Classics CCS 37816, 57:30 (6/10/16) ****:

The first 3/4 of this unusual CD features Riley’s original work of over 50 years ago, In C, which was probably the most important example of ‘repetitive music.’ There have been several recordings since which attempted to pay tribute to this important work which sort of mixed classical and jazz. According to one of the liner note writers, the worst example he has heard tries to copy the original performance, and “Rules are not as important as results.”

This version is totally different by using both the Ragazze String Quartet and four percussionists who go by the Slagwerk den Haag name. There’s an enormous dynamic range (no vinyl medium could possible handle this) and in addition to this explosiveness there is often a feeling of tranquil quiet and relaxation.

For the closing Sunrise of the planetary dream collector, a third group is brought in to join the other two. It is the jazz trio Kapok who use electronic effects and other percussion to achieve amazing sounds. Sometimes it sounds like the metallophones and gongs of Balinese music and again it builds to an enormous climax of sounds.

At first I was disappointed that this was not a hi-res surround SACD such as most of Channel Classics albums, but the CD format seems perfect for this music and the sonics are still amazing – especially the dynamic range. Wow!

—John Sunier

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