Friday, November 16, 2018

Terry Riley’s Album “Happy Ending” ----Written for French film “The Eyes Closed”

Click Here to listen to Terry Riley's 'Happy Ending' while you read my analysis. 



Terry Riley is noted as one of the most revolutionary composers of the post-war era of the 20th century. His introduction of repetition into western music as well as his “masterminded” (3) early experiments using tape loops and delay systems was unprecedented; and with it he cemented his mark on electronic music of the 20th and 21st centuries. Born June 24th, 1935 in Colfax, California…he had a certain “rural” (7) upbringing, although going on to study his undergraduate at both San Francisco University and San Francisco Conservatory. He also went on to getting his M.A in composition at University of California at Berkeley, reluctantly studying compositional serialism (7). It was here though, at U.C Berkeley where he met fellow composer and electronic music pioneer La Monte Young and with him rebelled against serial 12 tone music being taught at the University; to go on and create a new “repetitious” style of music in his free time for a local dance ensemble; of which he was much more interested in. 
Known mostly for his composition ‘In C’ from 1964, Terry Riley is recognized as a pioneer and one of the founders (1) of the “minimalist” electronic music movement. ‘In C’ was based on structured interlocking repetitious patterns that could also be categorized as polymetric rhythms. This polymetric style; brought on by slow, hard to detect changes are what gives “minimalistic” music its style, and what makes the genre a father (or mother) to the style known as “ambient” music. The piece ‘In C’ also changed the composer performer relationship, having multiple instruments playing the same line in polymetric succession; the piece was a notable early form of performance art. Cantaloupemusic.com recalls the composition and its impact: “[‘In C’] change[d] the course of 20th century music, and its influence has been heard in works of prominent composers such as Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, and John Adams.” Riley is also an influence to popular music acts such as The Who and Tangerine Dream. 

The composition being analyzed is called “Happy Ending” by Terry Riley and is a two part compositional album written for French film, with the songs recorded length being about 37 minutes. ‘Happy Ending’ is indeed minimalistic and is also influential to early “Prog Rock” in its own right, yet there not much written about the album online. Composed in 1972 and released in 1973 for the French film “The Eyes Closed”, Terry Riley’s ‘Happy Ending’ is a unique but brilliant piece exhibiting both an electric and an acoustic side to Riley’s compositional styles. The album is broken up into two sections or sides. Side A (00:00-18:36) is called ‘Journey from the Death of a Friend’ and Side B (18:37-37:00) is the title song with the name ‘Happy Ending’. The film “The Eyes Closed” is an elusive film to find, but it was written and directed by and French person named Joel Santoni (4). 

 Side A has electronic elements, but also has a strange cyclic use of organ sounds that also take shape of early synthesizers as well. The sound changes slowly and the timbre of the sounds change throughout the recording. There is a meditative quality to side A, and it sounds tribal in the way that minimalistic music can sound like Gamelan music from the tribes Southeast Asia in the same way that both types of music have a distinct repetitive polymetric quality to them. There is also different instrumentation at different points of side A, using acoustic piano at certain points, as well as synthetic sounds. The dynamic composition creates a space-like quality that was far ahead of its time, painting a very strange feel for the French film. The film is about a man who is contemplating suicide, and has very bad eyes. The man wanders Paris and becomes blind, falling into madness (5). I think this vibe is executed well with his eerily strange side A. This first side could very well be an influence to The Who’s song ‘Baba O’ Riley’ and its interesting minimalistic sounding synth intro. 

Side B is a minimalistic piece too, but it is shaped mainly by saxophones and organs and less electronic or synthetic sounds. This creates a unique minimalist sound taking elements of jazz, classical and electronic music and fusing them together. Riley was influenced by Coltrane and played sax himself; making way for a very interesting sound in this composition. After about five minutes of sax layering (the same way he would layer tape sounds) there is an entrance of organ. The organ is still electronic in its own right and I think organ here gives the piece a meditative church like element for a short period of time. I would also like to think that the hard rock group Deep Purple may have been influenced by Terry Riley and his use of organs. I also think that the use of saxophones on side B sounds similar to the prog rock band King Krimson’s song ‘Sailor’s Tale’. In this way, Riley wrote music that not only influenced electronic music but was also father (or mother) to prog rock and even some hard rock.  

The piece paints an interesting picture of a man losing his sight, already contemplating suicide and wandering the streets of Paris, growing more and more mad by the day. It is interesting that the album is called ‘Happy Ending’ when the film itself doesn’t seem like it would have much of a happy ending. Instead the piece, in sync with the film seems to be one representing endless despair, darkness and madness. There are improvisational parts of side B that to resemble blues and jazz or bebop solos, even if it is in just one key. The music could be difficult to categorize without using the notion of minimalism, due to the many elements it brings together. Finally there is a four chord harmony at the end of side B, and musically this definitively sounds like a happy ending. Again this album seems to encompass many styles of western music as well as eastern meditative qualities as well. The piano harmony is satisfying after the whole album of slowly evolving minimalism. The harmony chords are short lived however, and after about a minute and a half the piano also joins in on the minimalistic sound again. The piece then signals an end to the interesting album.

 In summary, Terry Riley’s “Happy Ending” is a solid example of minimalistic film music from the post-war era of 20th century music. His introduction of repetition into western music as well as his early experiments using tape loops and delay systems was unprecedented; and with it he cemented his mark on electronic music of the 20th and 21st centuries. “Happy Ending” uses many different timbres and instruments including early electronic synths, electronic organs, and saxophones, piano and other sounds resembling “elektronik musik” (or computer made sounds) of the 1950’s. Using these many colors Riley paints of picture of western music fused with eastern tactics. The music uses elements of Southeast Asia as well as classical harmony. The structured interlocking repetitious patterns of minimalism have a distinct meditative quality that was unique and revolutionary for its time. Riley’s influences from John Coltrane are heard on side B and the short 4 chord harmonies give the song a true musical “happy ending”. The album creates a weird, ominous vibe for the French film about drifting into madness with its extended repetitions exhibiting slowly yet distinct changes in the music and timbre qualities throughout. Its use of both electronic and acoustic means is characteristic of Riley’s work and his inclusion of many influences on his creations. East, west, electro or acoustic, Riley and the “Minimalistic” movement uses all of these elements in a slow moving fashion, so as the listener cannot pick up on the slight compositional changes as time moves on. The composition is a true display of minimalism from the 1970’s, and sets the tone for ambient music and all electronic music that would follow.
 







Works cited
1. “Terry Riley - Long Biography.” Music Sales Classical, www.musicsalesclassical.com/composer/long-bio/Terry-Riley.
2. “Terry Riley.” Cantaloupe Music, 17 Nov. 2017, cantaloupemusic.com/artists/terry-riley.
3. Ankeny, Jason. “Terry Riley | Biography & History.” AllMusic, www.allmusic.com/artist/terry-riley-mn0000750519/biography.
4. “Les Yeux Fermés” IMDb, IMDb.com, 5 Apr. 1974, www.imdb.com/title/tt0195423/.
5. “Les Yeux Fermés (Film, 1972).” Wikiwand, www.wikiwand.com/fr/Les_Yeux_ferm%C3%A9s_(film,_1972).
6. Saturn Archives. “Terry Riley ‎- Happy Ending (1972) FULL ALBUM.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 June 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCcvQ-QeJUs.
7. “Les Yeux Fermés” Film Cover Artwork. IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt0195423/mediaviewer/rm2200972544.
8. “Terry Riley's In C.” The Oxford History of Western Music, by Richard Taruskin and Christopher Howard Gibbs, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 1070–1071.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Post by me, the writer

Hello everyone out there. I know most of you are super busy running around and doing your work, your contribution to the world. I hope that no matter where you come from, you can understand the benefits that music and art have on the world. Not every body can make a living out of art or music, but everyone gets to benefit from it. This is why I love music and art so much, because no matter what, you can keep learning and keep benefiting from art or music. I hope that people will keep listening to music, because it is good for you! It activates all parts of your brain. Look it up! We can all dive a little deeper and learn about what kinds of music or art that we appreciate the most. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

(2-10-2017)Organ trio performs smooth styles of the 50's and 60's for Denverites

On the 10th of February, 2017, a “jazz organ trio” consisting of musicians Jeff Jenkins on electric organ, Todd Reid on drum set and Sean Mc Gowan on electric guitar performed for general recital students in attendance at the University of Colorado in Denver, Colorado. The group played songs that sounded like the music of organ jazz groups in the 1950’s and 60’s. The group opened by playing a couple smooth and sophisticated jazz style sets: with Latin style drums, signature “Hammond B3 organ’ sound, and light yet technical guitar style all combining to create a platform for seemingly ever-shifting improvisation and accompaniment. The group traded solos and the players all presented a highly cultivated precision with each upbeat (as well as each down beat, although this Latin rhythm style definitely accentuated the upbeats!)
Organist Jenkins talked about the old “Hammond B3” organs, that were created in the 1950’s and weighed around 500 pounds. The organ setup that he used is actually a digital emulation of the organ. This may be by use of a digital audio workstation and midi technology, or by use of new organ emulation technology. The original organs worked by using big “tone wheels” that you would have to keep oiled up every few months. The organs used drop bars that would trigger the sound of each note. The style and percussive nature of these drop bars were adjustable and could be used to sculpt the sound in certain ways. The original sound of these organs was said to be pioneered by Jimmy Smith, who embraced the percussive qualities of organs. This led to a more modern “Be-pop” sound that utilized an added bass element to the piano/organist’s sound.

 Jenkins also talked about his pedals which consisted of an expression pedal as well as a traditional organ bass pedal. He could control the volume with the expression pedal and play bass notes with the organ pedals. Jenkins explained how one could fuse these two pedals to physically emulate the sound of a plucked bass with one’s feet at the same time as playing organ with one’s hands. This technique was amazing and showed a certain virtuosity to Jenkin’s playing style. Drummer Todd Reid also commented on the importance of the correct level of attack for each bass drum note when accenting these plucked bass emulations. Jenkins also discussed the importance of the pairing of the125 pound “Lesley” speaker model with the Hammond B3 sound. This is important to achieving that deep bass sound. The organ trio was a revolutionary pairing of instruments at the time, and still brings joy to many players and jazz lovers alike. This trio was no different and the musicians brought a high level of technicality to their performance as well as professional etiquette while doing so. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Levitt Denver Pavilion Executive Director Speaks to CU Students



            On the 7th of February, 2017, Levitt Pavilion Denver founder and executive director Chris Zachar visited CU Denver students and talked about the new Denver concert pavilion that will open summer of 2017. Also accompanying him were partners Andy Thomas, (a Denver musician, Levitt partner and music journalist) as well as Chase Wessel, (a CU Alumni, Levitt Partner and former sound person at the Conan O’ Brien television show). The three gentlemen talked about new city plans for an all ages venue in Denver’s own Ruby Hill Park. The venue is projected to have 50 free shows and 30 plus paid concerts featuring touring acts as well as locals.
The venue is part of the Levitt foundation, which has similar venues around the nation. Levitt’s website states that “free Levitt concerts will be presented in 21 towns and cities. Each celebrates its own community and presents high caliber entertainment featuring a rich array of music genres.” (Levitt.com).  As Zachar discussed the future pavilion’s plans, he stated that the goal of Levitt Denver was to make arts more accessible to the surrounding area of Ruby Hill Park. The Levitt foundation funds cities and builds pavilions for music. They also help curate an art market or helps develop one that already exists. Ruby Hill Park in Denver is looking to be developed as an arts community with the help of Levitt.
The purpose for Denver’s Levitt project is to “Help make Denver feel like the place to be” (Zachar). Andy Thomas also talked about the importance of bringing music to communities that don’t normally get access to concerts and music events. He spoke on Levitt’s partnerships with Guitar Center to give instruments to kids in the community that couldn’t (without the help of Levitt) afford them. Chase Wessel, who graduated from CU in 2007 explained how he always wanted to own his own venue. Now he helps book for the Levitt pavilion in Denver and has already gotten busy booking for the summer 2017 concert season. The CU Denver students in attendance were exposed to the amazing new project for the music and concert industry that is Levitt Denver, as well as the chance to meet Zachar, Thomas and Wessel. The summer of 2017 looks to be a great first season for the pavilion, as the first show is confirmed to be on July 21st 2017 and will feature a free show by UB40 Legends Ali, Astro & Mickey with special guests Matisyahu and Raging Fyah.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Local Ableton brand manager and CU alumni speaks to students

On the 3rd of February, 2017, Serafin Sanchez (of whom is the local brand manager for the music technology company Ableton Live) visited CU Denver students on the Auraria campus in Downtown Denver Colorado. Sanchez is an Alumni from the CU Boulder, and received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree on that campus. As local brand manager for Ableton Live, Sanchez oversees the region of Colorado as well as southwestern United States. Ableton live is a digital audio workstation much like Protools or Logic, but Sanchez explained how the “session view” in Ableton gives the user a non-linear timeline for music. This gives improvisers the chance to build a song as they play, merging both creating and performing. I think this is the best part of Ableton, and though Protools is important to have as well, Ableton live is a fun and important tool for musicians and producers that want to perform or design sound. The “studio in a box” has become an important part of music production with the invention of tools such as Logic, Protools and Ableton Live.
            CU Denver professor Todd Reid also had an impromptu duo performance with Sanchez, demonstrating the many capabilities of using Ableton live. Sanchez also talked about the Ableton push controllers, which are unique in the way that you can do anything that you can on the laptop, with a midi button pushing type of feel. The duo used live looping technology as well as recording grand piano tracks to manipulate on the spot with these push controllers. In addition to the live performance, Sanchez plays saxophone and performs jazz saxophone with Todd Reid on drums. Sanchez also works with the hip hop group “The Flobots” as well. Ableton is a way that these musicians connect, and transfer files and musical ideas. Ableton and Push are truly remarkable in the way that it combines on the fly production of audio and musical performance by the user together.

            Other Ableton features include a full visual program for plugins called Max for live, Rock vid (which is a way to create videos along with your live performance), and a vast multitude of plugins, EQ’s, midi instruments, and audio effects. Ableton is truly revolutionary for musicians… as it gives the user a limitless canvas of capabilities. The many different options can be overwhelming, but for musicians who are working to improve their craft…Ableton is an amazing tool for making music. If you are by yourself or working with others, Ableton gives the user a new way of producing as well as performing live. Sanchez explained the many capabilities that Ableton gives to users for the visitors on campus. In addition, he demonstrated the importance of technologic relevance in music education in Music colleges such as CU Denver. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

7th Circle Collective Venue Owner talks to Cam Students

7th Circle Collective Venue Owner talks to Cam Students

      
       On January 31st, 2017 Aaron Saye, owner of the Denver “DIY’ collective 7th Circle music venue came to visit students at the University of Colorado at Denver. He shared the history of the all ages venue (7th circle) that has become a hotspot nationally for underground artists in the United States. As a former student, he described how important it was for him to take music business classes at CU and learn what he could about booking live acts. Although he was a film major, his time learning about the music industry would prove indeed useful to him in his career. The story of the venue is important for Denver as 2016 has seen numerous collective venue shutdowns in Denver and in the U.S., following the deaths of more than 30 people at an Oakland, CA ‘DIY’ music venue that caught fire.  
            Saye described the past few months of shutdowns as a stressful time for him and his venue. He talked about how important it was for his space to have a current zoning permit that it had, as well as it being a formed LLC business that pays taxes. The 7th Circle collective was inspected by a fire Marshall following the Oakland incident and without these documents, it very well could have been shut down along with “The Glob” and “Rhinoceropolis”, which are the two “DIY” venues in Denver that were shut down in 2016.  Although the spaces were not safe and up to city standards, many music fans were devastated to hear of the closures. Saye called it “Dumb luck” that his venue didn’t get shut down as well, because he almost didn’t even have the zoning permit that he needed. Two years earlier, his venue’s zoning issue was brought to his attention by a city official. It is safe to say that if he would have disregarded the official’s warning, 7th Circle would not have passed the Fire Marshall’s inspection.
The tragedy in Oakland is tough to learn from, and brings much attention to the topic of underground all ages venues. Fire departments around the nation now have “DIY” venues under their radar, and for good reason. Saye’s venue is still a success story however… with the venue passing inspections and continuing to have over 100 shows a year. The space remains a spot for both local and touring bands of all sizes looking to grow their audience and hone their craft. Saye wrapped up his discussion by meeting many CU Students who were delighted to meet the man behind “7th Circle”, and get a chance to network with the growing music collective. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Music Industry Alumni Visits CU Denver to talk about beneficial career strategies for CAM students

The King Center in Denver, Colorado welcomed back CU Denver alumni and past faculty member Tyler Soifer for general recital class on January 27th, 2017, to talk to students about the importance of constantly adding to your skillset in the music industry. Soifer is a graduate of the Recording Arts program of the College of Arts and Media (CAM). He also worked at the ‘Core’ on Auraria campus, (a recording studio for CAM music students) and gained experience managing live sound for the King Center building early in his career. In addition to working for CU Denver, Soifer is presently an audio engineer who opened his own recording studio in Denver (Side 3 Studios.) Soifer has a plethora of live sound experience from working major industry concerts: including being the tour drum technician for Steve Smith (drummer for Journey).
            Soifer’s story is inspiring for CAM students looking and aspiring to become music industry professionals. After graduating from CAM, he explained how he solved a problem at an internship helped him stand out to Steve Smith, who eventually hired him full-time. At the time an album of Smith’s was deleted on a solid state hard drive. Soifer’s knowledge of forensics helped establish him a valuable music industry connection after he recovered the album in full for the drummer. Soifer explained how his Mentor Rich Sanders helped him as a CAM student.  He also was adamant about how sometimes luck is an important part of the industry. He was in the right place at the right time to solve a problem for Smith and create a door for a mutually beneficial relationship.            

Soifer’s attitude and way of looking at life has enabled him to meet as many people, and learn as much knowledge as he could while he was in College to the point where he was a valuable asset to industry professionals once he graduated. This lifestyle entails constantly learning, constantly working, and constantly getting away from being too comfortable in music jobs or ventures. In this way, Soifer was not only lucky to find the career opportunities he did, he was also continuously increasing his opportunities by working his tail off, and expanding his knowledge as he did it. He talked about how he was always “picking his teacher’s brains” and taking in as much information about audio as possible. This never ending search for knowledge is what has made Soifer stand out to industry professionals. CAM students benefitted from being able to meet and connect with Soifer as he offered valuable insights into realm of working in live sound, audio production, and the business of operating a recording studio.