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Re: Terry Rileys' mysterious French engineer tape loop innovator

Hi Rick,

I only called it cynicism since you asked. :-)

**Am I just being too cynical and judgemental about this bit of history mystery?**
**I'm honestly not sure if I am or not.**

I wasn't passing judgment just answering a question.  I think you're a top shelf individual and would have to work hard to assume negative cynicism from you.


On Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 1:46 PM, Rick Walker <looppool@cruzio.com> wrote:
*Thanks, Manu,

I"ve never read such a detailed description of what happened. This clearly indicates that the vision and innovation
was all Riley's so please forgive my earlier skepticism. I have loved Riley's work in my life, so all kudos to him.
Thanks for posting it.

and in defense of my scepticism, as it was called out for being cynical by Kevin Cheli-Colando:

The musical world is completely full of examples where one famous musician appropriates another's work and takes full credit for it
(Miles Davis's appropriating Bill Evans' modal approach is a very famous one) so I don't think I was being cynical about the possibility in the slightest.

I was just wondering outloud merely because Riley has been asked several times about the identity of
that engineer without ever answering the question. Of course, that's can be easily understood, too.
I couldn't tell you who did sound engineering on a particular gig for my several tours of France with Bob Brozman.
In the same breath, I can tell you who introduced me to any strange and innovative instrument that I've started using
in one of my sets. I was merely skeptical. Skepticism and cynicism are not synonymous or necessarily mutually inclusive.
I also was unsure if I was the only one who was. That knowldege is important to me to, as I can get some pretty crazy thoughts
in my head.

Anyway, this has been a fascinating discussion. I'm glad we've been having it and I've learned a lot.

Rick Walker

*On 10/28/2014 4:10 AM, Loopers-Delight-d-request@loopers-delight.com wrote:
First, the french engineer of the Radio Télévision Française was part of the team which work was to radiobroadcast the theater performances of the international festival "Théâtre des Nations". They had a special mobile studio for that, located inside the théâtre Sarah Bernhardt. Nothing says that our engineer was linked to Schaeffer's GRM. There were hundreds of sound engineers at the RTF during this period.
Second, 1963 is the year of the relocation of the RTF from the old studios to the brand new "maison ronde", avenue du Président-Kennedy, Paris XVIe, and its transformation into ORTF the year after. Because of this moving, 1963 is a dislocated year for the archives of the institution. By the way, in general the archives of the french radio are disorderly dispersed all across the country (Paris, Fontainebleau, etc...), not easy to find something quickly.
I found pretty fun to dedicate the first loopfest in Paris, last year, to this unknown guy (we have a tradition here in France to celebrate unknown guys), he is certainly a fifth business of looping, but there is really no certitude for us to achieve this identity quest.
Third, this is my interpretation of the 1963 TLA story :

"In 1963, the Theatre des Nations, a Parisian international theater festival, invited American playwright Ken Dewey’s company to present a performance at the Recamier Theater. The festival gave voice to the happening, a new movement initiated in 1957 by a student of John Cage named Allan Kaprow and that took off in New York and California. Dewey’s American Conservatory Theater (ACT) is multidisciplinary and includes choreographer Anna Halprin’s dancers in addition to members of the Living Theatre. In California, they experimented with new forms of theater and dance to create "multimedia" production in association with members of the San Francisco Tape Music Center. The Tape Music Center was a group of musicians that were interested in creating music by using magnetic tapes recorders. This group included Terry Riley, who created “Mescalin Mix" in 1962 for one of Halprin’s shows.
In 1963, Riley scraped together a living in Paris playing jazz standards in bars in Pigalleand on NATO bases. Upon meeting Dewey, he agreed to create the soundtrack for the playwright’s intended performance at the festival: an adaptation of his play "The Gift" created the previous year in San Francisco. Dewey rented a ruined castle in the southern suburbs of Paris for rehearsals, while Riley made plans to work with Chet Baker - just released from prison in Italy for possession of heroin - and his quartet as musicians and actors. At the time, the quartet played regularly on the left bank at the cabaret le Chat qui pêche and included Luis Fuentes (trombone), Luigi Trussardi (bass) and George Solano (drums).
Riley recorded the quartet (together, then separately) in the studios of the Radio Télévision Française, installed in the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre (current Théâtre de la ville) to broadcast the plays presented during the Théâtre des Nations. Baker chose to interpret "So What" by Miles Davis, a modal piece perfectly adapted to Riley’s intentions. Riley also recorded excerpts from the text of "The Gift" read by John Graham. Riley described to the RTF sound engineer assigned to assist him the echo technique he used to record “Mescalin Mix”. In Riley’s words: “I described the effect to the french engineer, a very straight guy in a white coat, wo fooled around and ended up hooking two tapes recorder together. Boy ! When you heard that sound it was just what I wanted… What you do is connect two tapes recorders. The first is playing back, the second recording, the tape streched across the heads of both. As this machine records, it feeds back to the other machine, which plays back what it’s added. It keeps building up… »
Repetition and accumulation: the Time Lag Accumulator was born and would permanently alter Riley’s musical approach. He followed this development to its logical conclusion the following year by composing the founding piece of minimalist music: “In C”. Riley would also use a similar system in the 60’s for all-night improvisations in which he accompanied himself on the harmonium and saxophone.
When Chet Baker heard his quartet’s music passed through the mill of the Time Lag Accumulator, he exclaimed "Man, that's some crazy shit!" Many shared his negative reaction to this deconstruction of the rule of music. The performances of "The Gift" on July 8, 9 and 10 1963 caused misunderstanding and even anger among a Parisian public that had come mainly to hear the famous trumpeter and expected a kind of musical theater. Baker was not even present at the premiere and Riley had to fill-in for him on short notice, using a toilet plunger as a trumpet. Actors, dancers and musicians were precariously balanced on a huge metal mobile hanging from the ceiling created by sculptor Jerry Walters. The title object would move from hand to hand during the play and was improvised at each performance. This created all kinds of opportunities for provocation and forced the musicians to play ever louder to cover the screams of the crowd. The maelstrom of sound created by Riley met the jazz quartet’s music. On the last evening, an actor concludes his line "This is an incredible experience" by destroying recorders and tape of which only fragmentswould ultimately survive: the 23 minutes of recording known since as the "Music for the Gift"."


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