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Maya Beiser : Maya Beiser X Terry Riley: In C Review

Maya Beiser : Maya Beiser X Terry Riley: In C Review

maya-beiser-InC-SIR-CDMaya Beiser X Terry Riley: In C features soloist Maya Beiser on cello and vocals, with Shane Shanahan and Matt Kilmer on drums. It was released by Islandia Music Records under catalog number 014. This album marks a unique reinterpretation of Terry Riley’s minimalist masterpiece, “In C,” through the lens of celebrated cellist Maya Beiser. The work is an ambitious blend of classical music traditions and modern experimental techniques.

Beiser has been profoundly influenced by her multicultural upbringing in the Galilee Mountains, her classical training, and her collaborations with iconic composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. This album emerges from her continuous exploration of the cello’s capabilities and her desire to transform classical music into a more expansive and inclusive art form.

“In C” is traditionally performed by a large ensemble, with each musician choosing when to play each of the 53 phrases. Beiser’s version, however, is a solo venture using multi-tracking to layer cello lines, enhanced by continuous drone strings and live drumming. This method allows her to playfully explore the interplay of melody, rhythm, and tone.

A constant element is the high-pitched C, known as “The Pulse,” providing a rhythmic anchor for the piece. Beiser integrates this pulse into the fabric of the performance, allowing it to weave in and out, creating a dynamic and evolving soundscape. The incorporation of drones and looping draws from Western minimalist music and non-Western traditions. Her interpretation of “In C” adds a new dimension to the genre, presenting the cello as a versatile and dominant force within the minimalist framework.

The album is characterized by its profound emotional resonance, achieved through the lush sounds of the cello. The emotional tone shifts from contemplative to exhilarating as the music grows with the layering and looping, building interest. “In C 4” has intricate layering and emotional depth, and the use of vocals in tandem with the cello enriches the textural complexity of the music. Specific tracks where Shanahan and Kilmer’s contributions are particularly prominent include “In C 3,” “In C 5,” and “In C 8”. In “In C 3,” their percussive elements enhance the overlapping phrases, evoking the high-energy interplay typical of an Indian Raga’s jhala section.

The recording, editing, and mixing done by Dave Cook, alongside the masterful drumming and multi-cello arrangement, result in a clean, impactful sound. Beiser’s use of the cello’s registers to create a rich, sonic setting, complemented by rhythmic drum patterns, is beautifully recorded to showcase her mastery and tonal control. The drums and electronics all have their registers, resulting in a round and sweet listening experience. Shanahan and Kilmer’s expertise in drumming creates a hypnotic atmosphere that provides a vibrant, pulsating backdrop that drives the piece forward.

Track 8 showcases an increasing intensity in the phase-shifting of the drums, mirroring the building momentum in the cello parts. Their interplay with Beiser’s cello creates a captivating dialogue that is mesmerizing. The careful balance maintained between the cello and percussion ensures that neither overwhelms the other, allowing listeners to appreciate the subtleties of each component.

Maya Beiser X Terry Riley: In C will appeal to a broad range of music fans as it incorporates many familiar sounds into the classical setting. Through her unique interpretation, Beiser shows her virtuosity and visionary approach to music and reinforces her position as a pioneer in the continuing evolution of the classical music genre.


Maya Beiser: Website

Artist Name

Maya Beiser

Album Title

Maya Beiser X Terry Riley: In C

Release Date

April 5, 2024


Islandia Music Records

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