A Rainbow In Curved Air
" fixture of the minimalist canon, these two singular psych-classical compositions snuck into '60s counterculture at just the right time.
The hippies inspired a wholesale revision of marketplace calculations. Out-there experiments, previously indulged as pet projects, suddenly drew greater interest in certain media boardrooms. And that was before Woodstock demonstrated the scale of American youth culture to the country at large. After that long weekend, not every proposal needed to make complete sense to the entire executive suite. As Dennis Hoppers 1969 directorial debut Easy Rider developed into a smash, actor Peter Fonda observed that film bosses stopped shaking their heads in incomprehension, the better to start nodding their heads with incomprehension. This same new taste for the unexpected also secured some leeway for avant-gardists laboring inside the major label system.
In 1965, composer David Behrman began working as a tape editor for CBSs Columbia imprint. By 1967, his bosses trusted his taste enough to let him curate a series of albums that documented the American experimental scene. The first Behrman-produced LP included Steve Reichs Come Out, as well as electronic works by Pauline Oliveros and Richard Maxfield. Half a decade later, Columbias Music of Our Time series would be defunct. (A similar fate awaited Hoppers directorial career, after 1971s astonishing and truly bewildering The Last Movie.) But in the operational time they had, Behrman and his colleagues at Columbias classical division introduced an impressive variety of artists to the labels catalog, as well as to the record-buying public.
Terry Riley benefited the most from this small window of mainstream exposure. By the time Behrman discovered the artist performing in a small New York apartment, the slender Californian had the receding hairline and shoulder-length locks of an underground elder. Already in his thirties, Riley had fashioned a personal sound from an unusual collection of influences. As a young man, he made money playing barroom jazz piano. When simultaneously working toward a composition degree at Berkeley, Riley became entranced by the music of La Monte Younga fellow student who scandalized the faculty in 1958 with a nearly hour-long string trio that contained just 83 notes. Youngs use of sustained tones in his Trio for Strings offended those classmates who were conditioned to expect speed and complexity in any ambitious piece of contemporary classical music. Riley, though, was galvanized by Youngs few, long notes." Pitchfork