Terry Riley – Autodreamographical Tales


A surprisingly inspirational release, comprising music originally recorded in 1996 for a commission by Staten Island’s New American Radio. Many years ago Terry Riley began an early-morning practice, writing down all that was remembered of his nocturnal visions, as to produce a dream journal. In the composer’s words, “…as the journal progressed, it seemed to stimulate the dream activity and the dreams seemed to get longer and more complex”. Accordingly, he started creating peculiarly enthralling songs, with the intent of interspersing them along the chronicles of his brain’s unconscious bustle.

Needless to say, we’re galaxies distant from anything this splendid nonconformist has previously put on record. Forget minimalism, rainbows, poppies, In C, Kronos, forget just everything you might associate to Riley’s earlier efforts. The comparison that instantly came to mind while enjoying the opening sections of Autodreamographical Tales (with the obvious distinctions) was Shelley Hirsch’s O Little Town Of East New York, whose structure — narration of “coherently foggy” memories amidst constantly shifting musical backgrounds — is strikingly similar to this work’s initial episodes. However, the river starts flowing quite differently after a while, the old dreamer’s gracefully aged voice accompanying the listener — speaking or singing — throughout an extensive mesmerizing trip. We are confronted with a series of more or less delineated sonic pictures that include a plethora of influences: Indian chanting, repetitive patterns, unadulterated electronic cycles. Even shades of drunken blues rendered with an odd mixture of irony, refinement and technical brilliance. Listening to Riley playing the piano completely liberated from genre-related restrictions is alone worth getting a grip on this article, magnificent chords diffusing the appeal of a pregnant reverberation in the air, our mouths shut in total admiration during all-inclusive sequences. “The Royal 88”, “A Dervesh In The Nursery”, “The Ecstacy”, “The Ebony Horns” are comparable to Riley’s unconditionally finest output.

Though divided in two chapters (the title track and the nearly 50-minute long “The Hook Lecture”), the music flows incessantly, continuously and utterly beautifully. Hearing a presumed master talking is gratifying for some; yet when a real master talks and plays at the same time and the creative level is so artlessly high one should only sit and learn. Do not miss this unclassifiable precious stone, surely not deserving to be cloaked under a veil of indifference. Not merely an oneiric commentary, this is the soundtrack of a whole existence — and maybe of several others, who knows.


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